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U.S. Marines arrest Haitian singer and
activist So Anne on Mother's Day

by Marguerite Laurent

So Anne and her choir

United States Marines arrested Anne Auguste, a prominent Haitian singer and humanitarian activist known popularly as So Anne, on Sunday, Mother's Day. A sizeable contingent of marines entered by blowing up her gate with grenades and then ransacked her home in Port-Au-Prince, where she was recuperating from surgery. They detained 11 friends and family, who were handcuffed and taken away, including two young children, ages 5 and 12. The Marines are holding So Anne incommunicado.

Her life dedicated to the Lavalas Movement for democracy and development in Haiti, So Anne's house is a meeting ground, as is the Haitian custom, for people to come and eat, gather, and share news and solidarity. The Haitian Constitution guarantees Haitian citizens the right not to be arrested or terrorized without due cause, and it prohibits arrests between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. at night.

Nevertheless, at midnight, all the people in So Anne's house, including her 5-year-old great grandson, Shashou, were forced to the ground and handcuffed by U.S. Marines armed with heavy artillery - a 5-year-old Haitian child, handcuffed by the world's most powerful soldiers at midnight in his own grandmother's home! The children's pet dogs were shot to death for barking at the Marines.

Demand So Anne's immediate release

What is So Anne's "crime?" Organizing nutritional programs, serving food to the homeless, presenting cultural programs, and supporting Lavalas - along with the majority of the Haitian people - to name a few. Thousands of Haitians have already been killed since the coup d'etat on Feb. 29 for similar "crimes." Thousands more are in hiding. We must fight back on their behalf.

Protest this illegal and immoral action by the United States Marines! Demand So Anne's immediate release! Your calls, faxes and e-mails will make a difference to keep So Anne alive, to deter brutal treatment and to expedite her release.

Please contact Ambassador James Foley directly at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince; call (509) 223-7011 or (509) 222-0200, fax (509) 223-9665, email acspap@state.gov or visit http://usembassy.state.gov. And contact Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.S. State Department in Washington; call (202) 647-5291 or (202) 647-7098, fax (202) 647-2283 or (202) 647-5169, or email via http://contact-us.state.gov/ask_form_cat/ ask_form_secretary.html.
Photo: Ryan Remiorz, CP, AP

All 11 people at So Anne's house were transported to the U.S. barracks at the Medical University the U.S. shut down upon arriving in Haiti, a country without doctors, and interrogated. None was charged. No apologies were given. All were released, except that Lavalas militant So Anne, after having been interrogated all night, was then delivered to the Haitian National Penitentiary. No charges have been cited.

Other Haitian popular organizational leaders, currently in hiding for fear of similar U.S. reprisals, suspect this arrest is a pretext to prevent So Anne from taking part in a demonstration demanding the return of the rule of law and President Aristide planned for May 18, Haiti's Flag Day. This is the sort of "law and order" and "democracy" Haitians are subjected to after their constitutionally-elected president was, himself, forced out of Haiti by U.S. and French soldiers at gunpoint.

At a press briefing on Monday, Col. David Lapan, public affairs officer for the Multinational Interim Force reportedly said, when asked why such force was used to make this arrest, that in operations of this type it is necessary to use violence in order to show that the MIF means business. Lapan clearly implied that Haiti is under U.S. martial law, while U.S. Ambassador Foley controls every word that comes out of the mouth of U.S. puppet Gerard Latortue, the man appointed to "replace" Aristide.

The U.S. admitted, through Col. Lapan at the press conference, that there was no evidence of any weapons at So Anne's house. Thus, the use of such excessive force and the hour of the operation is clearly a blatant violation of the Haitian Constitution, Haitian sovereignty and international treaties, and OAS and UN charters.

Moreover, in the context of the U.S. citizenry's current concerns over treatment of people in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, this excessive force and terrorizing of Haitian civilians, who were then not accused of any crime, is especially egregious.

More than 3,000 Haitians, mostly young Haitian men associated or rumored to be associated with the Lavalas Movement, have been killed in Haiti since the U.S. deposed President Aristide on Feb. 29. In a bare two months, this bloodbath and killing of 3,000 Haitians represents more than half the number of Haitians who were killed during the entire three years of the first coup d'Čtat from 1991 to 1994. Yet the reason given by Secretary of State Colin Powell for forcing out President Aristide and bringing in the MIF was "to avoid a bloodbath."

As of April 26, the Bush administration's illegal interdiction policy towards Haitian asylum seekers has resulted in Washington returning 1,948 Haitians to Haiti in 2004, already an increase, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, over the 1,490 intercepted at sea for the entire year in 2003. And yet, the State Department's propaganda to destabilize the constitutional government had promised the Haitian people a better human rights record than that of the previous two Lavalas voted-in governments.

So Ann is an elderly woman on medication and has yet to be charged or to see a judge in accordance with the 48-hour rule under the Haitian Constitution. This is an urgent call to action. Please contact Secretary of State Colin Powell, your local congressperson, the Congressional Black Caucus and the media to denounce the arrest of So Anne, the systematic terror campaign against Lavalas demonstrators, and the treatment of Haitians like So Anne and her 5-year-old great grandson Shashou by the U.S. command with the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti.

Marguerite Laurent, known as the hip hop lawyer, is an entertainment attorney and chair of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, dedicated to protecting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Keep up with the latest news on Haiti at www.margueritelaurent.com/campaigns/campaigns.html and www.haitiaction.net.

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