Lawyers for New York state and the US Department of Homeland Security argued during a May 15 hearing in state court in Brooklyn that Haitian paramilitary leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant should be released early and deported quickly to Haiti. Constant has entered a guilty plea to charges involving a $1.7 million mortgage fraud scheme. Government lawyers urged state justice Abraham Gerges to sentence Constant to time served while awaiting trial, about 10 months; he would then be deported under a standing deportation order. “I have no fear to be deported to Haiti,” Constant told the justice at the hearing.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a New York-based human rights organization, argued that due to instability in Haiti, Constant might escape justice if he’s deported. Gerges postponed the sentencing until May 21 and suggested that he might kill the deal. In that case, Constant would go to trial on the fraud charges and could face five to 15 years in prison. (Guardian, UK, May 16 from AP)
Constant set up the rightwing Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) in the early 1990s after a 1991 coup deposed elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide; he later said the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in creating the group, which is accused of numerous murders and rapes of activists. The US restored Aristide to office in 1994, and Constant fled to the US in 1995. He was ordered deported, but was allowed to stay in the US, ostensibly because of instability in Haiti. He was charged in the mortgage fraud case on July 7, 2006. On Aug. 16, 2006, a federal district judge ruled against Constant in a suit brought by three victims of rape by FRAPH militants, and on Oct. 25 Constant was ordered to pay the victims $19 million. CCR warns that if released and deported, Constant “could return to killing and terrorizing the Haitian people.” (CCR urgent action, May 18)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 20
A certain Cuban terrorist has been receiving similar treatment.