A FEDERAL judge in Miami has issued a judgment of more than $500 million against ousted Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and his wife as the result of a class action suit filed by a Haitian priest. Fr Gerard Jean-Juste, executive director of the Haitian Refugee Centre in Miami, and Etzer LaLanne filed the suit in March 1986. The suit accused the Duvaliers of plundering the national treasury and diverting international assistance.
The lawsuit also charged wrongful detention of the plaintiffs and alleged the Duvaliers restricted their freedom of religion and expression. US District Judge Thomas Scott issued the judgment last week. Fr JeanJuste is a priest of the Diocese of Les Cayes in Haiti. He does not have official priestly faculties in the Miami archdiocese.
"I'm happy about it. Whatever money we can get from Baby Doc (Duvalier) we will use for the Haitian people. There are so many things to do", Fr Jean-Juste said. "Our dream is to get basic human needs for the Haitian people."
Ira Kurzban, attorney for Fr Jean-Juste, said "we are going to go after Duvalier and make every effort to collect the money, no matter how long it takes". Jean-Claude Duvalier and his wife, Michelle Bennett Duvalier, fled to France in 1986. "This lawsuit says it directly: (Duvalier) is a thief. He stole directly from the Haitian people", Kurzban said at a press conference.