Ex-Haitian officer faces civil trial on rights allegations
A former Haitian army colonel will be judged in Miami in a civil trial to determine his liability in the death of one person and the torture of another.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Carl Dorelien was among high-ranking military officers who overthrew Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and then served as army colonel in the central command until U.S. troops landed in 1994 to restore Aristide to office.
Dorelien then fled to the United States and settled in Florida where he bought a Lotto ticket in 1997 and won $3.2 million. Accused of human rights violations back home, Dorelien was deported in 2003 -- and then lost control of his jackpot.
Now, Dorelien faces a civil trial in Miami federal court for allegedly tolerating human rights abuses while serving in Haiti. U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King is to begin selecting jurors Tuesday. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Dorelien in connection with the alleged torture of Lexiuste Cajuste in Port-au-Prince in 1993 and the killing of Michel Pierre in the infamous 1994 massacre in Raboteau.
NOT IN COURT
Dorelien will not be at the trial but his Miami attorney, Kurt Klaus, will present a defense. He told The Miami Herald Friday that his client is not responsible for Cajuste's alleged torture or the Raboteau deaths.
''He had no direct command of troops,'' Klaus said. ``He was an attache in the central command office, but he was just an administrator. The only reason they are bringing the lawsuit here is because Mr. Dorelien won the Florida Lottery and they see dollar signs.''
The lawsuit is separate from an order last year by a judge in Tallahassee who ruled that about $808,000 left from the jackpot should be paid to relatives of Raboteau victims including Pierre's widow -- one of the lawsuit plaintiffs. Dorelien has appealed the jackpot order and the case is pending.
Cajuste, who now lives in Jacksonville, told The Miami Herald last year that he was tortured in 1993 at a police station in Port-au-Prince. Cajuste said he was arrested after he went to a radio station to deliver a news release calling for a general strike.
Pierre died in Raboteau, a neighborhood of the Haitian city of Gonaives, when Haitian soldiers and civilian paramilitary supporters rampaged through the area in 1994.
At least 26 unarmed men, women and children were killed during the two-day rampage, including Pierre.
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Justice & Accountability, a San Francisco human rights organization.
''After waiting more than 12 years, our clients will finally have their day in court, and, for the first time, one of the many high-ranking members of the Haitian Armed Forces who found refuge in the U.S. after the restoration of democracy to Haiti, will have to answer to a U.S. jury for the allegations of widespread and severe human rights abuses,'' said Pamela Merchant, the group's executive director.[/quote]
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