Credit: BBC News
Via the Miami Herald, a report by Jacqueline Charles and Jay Weaver: Former Haiti coup leader Guy Philippe arrested in Haiti. Excerpt and then a comment:
Former Haiti coup leader Guy Philippe, who has been wanted for more than a decade on drug charges in the United States, was arrested Thursday in Haiti and federal agents were bringing him to Miami.
Philippe, 48, was arrested after he left a Haitian radio station, local media reported. Police fired several shots during the 10 minutes it took to take him into custody outside Scoop FM in Petionville. Late Thursday, he was transferred to the custody of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
The ex-rebel leader, charged with drug trafficking by the DEA under a 2005 sealed indictment, had just been elected to a six-year term in the Haitian parliament as a senator from the Grand’Anse area of Haiti. Earlier in the day, before the radio interview, he had picked up his legislative certificate.
The arrest came four days before newly elected lawmakers are set to be sworn in. As a senator, Philippe would have been entitled to immunity from arrest or prosecution during his term in office.
A Miami defense attorney who has been representing Philippe confirmed that he was being held by the Haitian National Police. “I have been informed that he’s in custody,” attorney Richard Dansoh told the Herald. “It appears the arrest is legitimate.”
He added that Philippe “has some real defenses,” possibly including sovereign immunity from prosecution.
Both the U.S. attorney’s office and the DEA in Miami declined to comment.
Philippe — who led a coup in 2004 that toppled then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide — will now face charges from 2005 in the United States.
Philippe has long proven elusive to both Haitian and U.S. authorities. Several attempts to arrest him over the years have failed, including a recent effort by Haiti National Police after he was accused of involvement in an attack on the police headquarters in the southern Haitian city of Les Cayes. At least six people were killed in the attack. An arrest warrant was issued for him after the attack.
And he has remained wanted in the United States for more than a decade on a Nov. 22, 2005, indictment charging him with conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S. and money laundering while he was a police official, according to law enforcement officials and others familiar with the case.
His group of handpicked police officers allegedly provided security for Colombian cocaine shipments as they were transferred to traffickers in Haiti for export to the United States, according to sources.
Philippe has always denied the U.S. allegations against him and said that it has no jurisdiction to arrest him.
“I am pleased to see that the Haitian National Police has carried out its legal responsibility to arrest those who have outstanding criminal warrants against them,” said Mark Schneider, a senior adviser with the International Crisis Group.
“In this case, it’s obviously a last-minute effort that prevents Guy Philippe from acquiring immunity from prosecution. One would expect that the pending cases against him both in Haiti and presumably in the United States would now take normal course through the criminal courts.”
Guy Philippe, I gather, is a folk hero to some in southern Haiti, the region worst hit by Hurricane Matthew and the consequent cholera outbreak. Other Haitian sources report his arrest was followed by gunfire, and his supporters in the south may be ready to launch some kind of armed revolt.