PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A former top government prosecutor who was once forced to flee Haiti for Miami in fear for his life is dead.
Claudy Gassant was found dead Saturday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he recently had been living. The discovery came on the same day Gassant was expected to be in South Florida for a conference on Haiti’s widening insecurity. His death was described as suspicious.
Smith Augustin, Haiti’s ambassador to the neighboring country, said Gassant’s death was confirmed by the National Department of Investigations (DNI).
“Police are in the house investigating; they are trying to see if it was suicide or a homicide,” Augustin told the Miami Herald.
Former Haiti Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who spoke with Gassant often, said he will miss the jurist.
“We’ve lost in a dramatic way, one of our most savvy experts on penal procedures. He was secretary of state for justice in my government, but I will miss the friendship and the intelligent conversations I regularly had with him on how we could be useful to Haiti besides involvement in politics.”
Frantz Exantus, who served as secretary of state for communication in Haiti, said he was devastated by the news of his friend.
“Integrity, courageous and competent. He has always proven himself in every position he has held,” Exantus wrote on his Facebook page, adding that “an independent investigation is required.”
A high-profile lawman, Gassant first rose to fame in Haiti as the investigative judge tasked with finding out who murdered agronomist-turned-journalist Jean Léopold Dominique and a security guard on April 3, 2000. Both men were gunned down in the courtyard of Dominique’s Radio Haiti-Inter station in Port-au-Prince.
Once a supporter of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas Family party, Dominique had become an outspoken critic on the airwaves. Twenty-one years after his assassination, his murder remains unsolved.