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Former Haiti prosecutor once tasked with finding out who killed famous journalist is dead

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

In Haiti, an investigative judge functions similar to an American grand jury. After being assigned the case, Gassant often complained about threats on his life and walked around the ministry of justice accompanied by heavily armed security. In a 2001 interview, he told the Miami Herald that he feared for his life because powerful people in Aristide’s government might be implicated in the murders.

“The executive is against me, the legislative is against me, and the judiciary, too,” he said at the time. “I’m so afraid I don’t know of whom to be afraid.”

After spending several years in South Florida, Gassant would return to Haiti, where he served in the government of the late President René Préval and was tasked with rooting out corruption. But his clashes with the police and others often overshadowed the job and made some uneasy with his tactics.

One infamous episode ended with Gassant abruptly resigning his post as the country’s top prosecutor but not before Préval was forced to step in as referee. The resignation, which Gassant would confirm to the Herald, came just days after declaring in a press conference that the only way he would leave his post as Port-au-Prince district attorney is if he were fired.

The resignation was the final episode of a weeklong drama between Gassant and a Petionville police commissioner, Frantz Georges. It unfolded during a July weekend at a konpa music festival after Gassant and a security guard got into an argument when Gassant was refused re-entry into the party.

Upset, Gassant ordered a gun check at the concert and the jailing of the security firm owner on charges of having an illegal firearm.

 

In recent years, Gassant had served as the head of Haiti’s anti-corruption unit under President Jovenel Moïse, whose July 7 assassination remains under investigation. Gassant had left the government by the time of Moïse assassination.

Gassant was appointed by Moïse as director general of the Unit for the Fight Against Corruption on Nov. 29, 2019, and fired 50 days after his Dec. 3 installation.

He learned of his firing on social media after it was announced that the president had appointed a new director, Rockefeller Vincent, who is today Haiti’s current justice minister. The anti-corruption unit also employed one of the suspects, Joseph Felix Badio, sought by Haitian police for questioning in the president’s murder.

On Saturday, Gassant had been scheduled to be in South Florida at Florida International University, where he was to join several other Haitians for the conference. The conference was organized by members of the Haitian diaspora.

©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.