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Haitian Grassroots Woman Activist & Labor Leaders Arrested, Harassed By Police

Ginette Apollon, President of the National Commission of Women Workers (CNFT) was illegally arrested on April 19, 2005 at the Port-au-Prince International Airport upon her return from the Encuentro Mundial de Solidaridad Con la Revolucion Bolivariana in Venezuela. The Encuentro marked the third anniversary of the reversal of the coup against President Chavez. Ms. Apollon, a member of the Confederation des Travailleurs Haïtiens (CTH), a mother and an activist working with grassroots women, was invited to Venezuela by INAMUJER, a Venezuelan women’s rights organization. While there she met with Central Latino-Americana de los Trabajadores (CLAT) with whom CTH is affiliated. Apollon was questioned by police about her trip to Venezuela, the purpose of her trip, who she met with and more.
PRESS RELEASE…PRESS RELEASE…PRESS RELEASE

April 21, 2005
WHAT: HAITIAN GRASSROOTS WOMAN ACTIVIST & LABOR LEADERS ARRESTED, HARASSED BY POLICE
CONTACT: Lucie Tondreau (786) 663-9889

Ginette Apollon, President of the National Commission of Women Workers (CNFT) was illegally arrested on April 19, 2005 at the Port-au-Prince International Airport upon her return from the Encuentro Mundial de Solidaridad Con la Revolucion Bolivariana in Venezuela. The Encuentro marked the third anniversary of the reversal of the coup against President Chavez. Ms. Apollon, a member of the Confederation des Travailleurs Haïtiens (CTH), a mother and an activist working with grassroots women, was invited to Venezuela by INAMUJER, a Venezuelan women’s rights organization. While there she met with Central Latino-Americana de los Trabajadores (CLAT) with whom CTH is affiliated. Apollon was questioned by police about her trip to Venezuela, the purpose of her trip, who she met with and more.

Also illegally arrested at the airport were Paul Loulou Chéry, a prominent labor leader who is General Coordinator of the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH) along with his brother, Lamour Chéry; both were at the airport to greet Ms Apollon. The police illegally interrogated them all about their work as labor leaders, and about their work supporting the return of democracy to Haiti. Authorities confiscated the cell phones of the arrestees, videos belonging to Apollon, and the lap top computer of Chéry.

The police accused Apollo of receiving money abroad to finance violence in Haiti; after demanding her banking information, $23 in US currency and 350 gourdes in Haitian currency (less than $10 US) were discovered by police after a meticulous search. The activists were released after several hours, but had to agree to be interrogated again the following day. Ginette Apollon, who suffers from high blood pressure, had to be hospitalized during the ordeal. Apollon and Chéry are mandated to return again to the police station on Friday, April 21.

Both Apollon and Chéry are prominent critics of Haiti’s interim regime, which was imposed by the U.S. and France and dominated by Haitian elites. The interim regime has raided union offices and arrested activists who are supporters of President Aristide without a warrant, and on the basis of vague charges.

The situation in Haiti continues to be critical. The most recent arrest and harassment of grassroots labor leaders, was an attack clearly aimed at undermining and silencing grassroots resistance to the occupation, attempting to halt the right to travel outside of Haiti, as well as stifling international solidarity. This harassment violates the protections of the right to organize workers contained in the Haitian Constitution and numerous international instruments to which Haiti is a party. Approximately 10,000 Haitians have been killed since the US/France backed coup of February 29, 2004, and thousands have been jailed and/or tortured. Haitian activists, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others have expressed grave concern that members and/or supporters of Lavalas, the party and movement of President Aristide, are being targeted. Lives are at risk.

Activists are asking the public to contact Haitian Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, the US Ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley, The Embassy of Brazil in Haiti (Brazil heads the UN forces in Haiti), the United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti to urge them to do everything in their power to immediately stop the harassment of Ginette Apollon and Paul Loulou Chery. Supporters of an action alert they have issued include:
Haiti Action Committee; Fondation 30 Septembre; Haitian Initiative For Democracy; Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network; Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti;
Haiti Progress; Haiti Support Network; The Global Women’s Strike; Clement Payne Society/Barbados; RedThread/Guyana; Danny Glover; Selma James; Margaret Prescod; Steve Gillis President, USWA Local 8751 Boston School Bus Drivers' Union;
Kevin Skerrett, Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees;
Ray Laforest, staff organizer DC 1707 AFFCME; Walter Riley, Attorney-at-Law;
Barbara Rhine, Attorney-at-Law; Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council;
Maureen Duignan, O.S.F.; Dale Sorensen, Director, Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas; Claude Marks, Freedom Archives; Jeff Ballinger, Executive Director Press for Change; Sylvia Tiwon, University of California, Berkeley; Merlin Chowkwanyun, Columbia University; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - DC Branch; Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean

The activists say that action is needed immediately to stop the persecution of these labor leaders/grassroots activists, if not they fear that the interim Haitian government will go further. For Ginette Apollon, already in poor health, continued harassment could be a death sentence.
 
 


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