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Freedom for a Kingpin of Thugs

Unwisely, the U.S. has released a man who terrorized Haiti

June 30, 1996

Due to an inexplicable and unwise settlement, Emmanuel Constant, Haiti's most infamous thug, has been freed from a U.S. prison. Constant was the founder and director of FRAPH, the largest paramilitary group in Haiti. He is accused in the Caribbean nation of having supervised the murder, torture and rape of thousands there.

Constant was arrested in the United States after the State Department declared him a threat to U.S. interests. Now that he has been released from a federal prison in Maryland, he might travel to raise funds among Haitian exiles worldwide or perhaps even return surreptitiously to Haiti to try to dislodge that country's fragile democracy.

Constant gained notoriety in the United States when he led demonstrations at the Port-au-Prince docks that prevented the U.S. Navy from landing there in 1993.

Once President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was restored to power, Constant was ordered to appear in a Haitian court to respond to charges of human rights abuse. He fled to New York City, where he was arrested in May 1995.

His imprisonment was a blessing for the Haitian people but short-lived. U.S. officials say he was freed two weeks ago so Washington could avoid litigating a suit brought by his lawyers challenging the constitutionality of the statute under which he was held. The State Department should have fought against the release. Some human rights groups contend that the federal government released Constant to avoid the embarrassment that might have resulted from a trial. The ghost of his prior connections to the Central Intelligence Agency haunted Washington, they claim.

Constant still is required to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Washington should give Haiti another chance by biting the bullet, arresting him again and bringing him to trial under the International Convention on Torture. Another option would be to arrest him and deport him to Haiti, where he is a wanted man. Constant is a dangerous individual who should not be walking the streets of Haiti or the United States.

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