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U.S. arrests former Haitian mayor accused of political violence

Tan KW
Publish date: Thu, 23 Mar 2023, 08:25 AM
Tan KW
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BOSTON - A former mayor of a rural town in Haiti was arrested on U.S. visa fraud charges on Wednesday, a day after a jury ordered him to pay $15.5 million over allegations he led a campaign of murder and other acts of violence against his political opponents.

Federal prosecutors in Boston said Jean Morose Viliena, 50, illegally obtained a green card allowing him to live permanently in the United States by falsely claiming he had not ordered or carried out extrajudicial and political killings in Haiti.

Prosecutors said that in fact, he personally committed or ordered the maiming, harm, humiliation or death of his adversaries after being elected to a four-year term as the mayor of Les Irois, Haiti, in December 2006.

He successfully sought a visa in 2008. He now lives in Malden, Massachusetts, and works as a truck driver. Viliena's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

The indictment came a day after a jury ordered him to pay $15.5 million in a lawsuit by three Haitian citizens -- David Boniface, Juders Yseme, and Nissage Martyr -- accusing Viliena of persecuting them or their relatives when he was mayor.

The case shed a light on widespread violence that has plagued Haiti, where armed gangs have been expanding their territory, kidnappings have become frequent and gunbattles between police and crime groups are routine.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows for U.S. lawsuits against foreign officials accused of extrajudicial killings or torture when avenues for redress in their home countries are exhausted.

The plaintiffs said Viliena in 2007 led a group of armed men to Boniface's home who beat and fatally shot his brother, and later mobilized a group in 2008 that beat and shot Martyr and Yseme at a community radio station.

Martyr lost a leg and Yseme was blinded in one eye. Martyr died in 2017 after suing. His son now serves as a plaintiff in his place.


  - Reuters


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