Haitian Senator-elect Guy Philippe, whom last week was arrested and extradited to the United States on a number of drug trafficking and money laundering charges, pleaded not guilty this morning in a Miami Federal Court House.
Many people showed up at the brief hearing, in support of the man charged with three counts of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US as well as money laundering.
His supporters say that the arrest of the former rebel, who successfully overthrew the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, is politically motivated and illegal, considering that Guy Philippe enjoyed immunity as an elected senator.
Philippe, 48, was flown to the U.S. to face the charges after his arrest last week in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince during a live radio show. Philippe had been elected to the Haitian Senate in the November 20th election and was only three days away from being sworn in when he was taken captive.
Many supporters wore T-shirts with Philippe's picture and the slogan, "A Senator for the People." Outside the downtown Miami courthouse, some people carried "Free Guy Philippe" signs and waved the Haitian flag. Philippe's wife, Natalie, attended the hearing and met with demonstrators but declined to speak to reporters.
In Haiti, there have been several disturbances in the southwestern Grand' Anse Department where Philippe had his stronghold and whose senate seat he won.
A police station, the municipal house as well the homes of several american citizens have been attacked. The homes of the three american missionaries were set on fire.
The US embassy in Port-au-Prince have since released a security message warning american citizens of disturbances in the area and to leave if possible.
Yesterday, Haiti's Ministry of Education has announced that classes in the Grande Anse Department were cancelled until further notice, due to concerns for violent protests.
Guy Philippe's arrest has also caused many great reactions within the Haitian parliament, with many lawmakers calling for an amendment to the Haiti-US extradition treaty. An amendment which is very likely to pass considering that Guy Philippe's party enjoys the majority in both houses of the Haitian parliament, and the soon to be new president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise is of the same party; although he has not made any public comments regarding the arrest.
Posted by hougansydney.com. Posted In : Haiti Breaking News