For about two months, the Haitian National Police (PNH) have claimed to be looking for the powerful leader of the recently busted “Galil Gang,” which specialized in kidnapping and drug trafficking. His name is Woodley Ethéart aka Sonson La Familia, who is a very close associate of President Michel Martelly. According to many, he is now under the protection of Martelly regime officials following the kidnapping of businessman Samy El Azzi on Feb. 17, 2014 in Port-au-Prince.
Ethéart’s wife, Marie Taïssa Mazile Ethéart, was also arrested and jailed in Petion-ville, charged by an investigating judge with laundering money obtained from illicit drug trafficking and kidnapping. On Mar. 29, she was illegally released from prison with the complicity of Acting Government Commissioner Gérald Norgaisse, who has since resigned.
The questions now arise: where are Sonson La Familia and his wife? Are they being protected by the Martelly government? Is the executive holding justice hostage? Is there the rule of law in Haiti?
Following Mme. Ethéart’s release, many judges have denounced executive influence over the judiciary. The sacred principle of separation of powers is not respected, they say. The president of the National Association of Haitian Magistrates (ANAMAH) Durin Duret says that Mme. Ethéart “is an indicted person who is on the run. ”
The investigating judge Sonel Jean François had detained Mme. Ethéart in the civil prison of Pétionville, but she was released by Mr. Norgaisse. The ANAMAH President explains that only the judge in charge of the investigation can order the release of the accused. Judge Duret questioned the motivation of the prosecution in this case but noted that Judge Sonel should send the matter to the Government Commissioner for an arrest warrant to be issued for Mme. Ethéart.
Judge Duret said that the law does not allow any other officer to intervene in a case handled by an investigating judge. Otherwise there would be “chaos,” he said, calling Mr. Norgaisse’s action “illegal.” Mme. Ethéart is a fugitive, Duret said, arguing that any citizen can apprehend her.
Senate President Simon Desras now accuses the Martelly regime of “colluding with mafia networks.” He called on the press to investigate whether Sonson La Familia has not taken refuge in one of the commercial apartments owned by the President Martelly.
“It is not a secret, everyone knows the National Palace has turned into a den of thieves,” Sen. Desras said. “What is worse, Sonson La Familia is hiding in one of the houses of President Martelly, and from his hiding place he is appointing certain officials for the executive in certain municipalities in the country. In the town of Saut d’Eau, for example, near my house, [Sonson La Familia] recently appointed a driver for Renan Etienne to city hall, a guy named Wisky Wisky who is a Galil Gang member.”
Desras went on to say that “the Senate fired an individual named Patrick Joseph Sully for corruption, but he has become, thanks to the so-called El Rancho agreement, a Minister in the Martelly-Lamothe government. He used to use the name of Deputy Patrick Joseph to get money since they have almost the same name: Patrick Joseph and Patrick Sully Joseph.”
In any case, Woodley Ethéart is not really a fugitive, but a protégé of the current government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe Salvador, said Pierre Espérance , Executive Director of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH).
“The executive is defying justice, and it also challenges the judge when it carries out such a dramatic release.”
“He’s here in the capital and it is they who protect him” Espérance said in an interview with AlterPresse. Haitian authorities “have Sonson Lafamilia in their custody.” They simply do “not want to give him to justice,” Espérance continued. This behavior by government officials makes Haiti a “bandit state, a rogue state, and a delinquent,” where there “is anything but the rule of law,”
Mme. Ethéart, accompanied by her lawyer Claudy Gassant, resurfaced on Apr. 9 at the Port-au-Prince courthouse. Gassant returned to the court house the next day. But Judge Jean-François Sonel refused to meet them and asked for her to return to the Pétion-ville prison.
Meanwhile, Government Commissioner Norgaisse resigned for “personal reasons.” He claimed he freed Mme. Ethéart out of respect for humanitarian principles. If that is so, why did he not act in the same way for thousands of untried prisoners suffering in the country’s prisons?
“The executive is defying justice, and it also challenges the judge when it carries out such a dramatic release,” said Sen. Desras in his office on Apr. 21, 2014. “The President of the Supreme Court is a man enslaved, a slave of Martelly. The National Palace is in collusion with the bandits, kidnappers, and drug dealers. If President Martelly cannot organize elections this year, the Senate will call for his resignation.”