FLORIDA, United States (CMC) — Former Haiti rebel leader and elected senator, Guy Philippe has been arguing his case from a United States jail cell.
Philippe, 48, who is in a US federal jail in Miami, was arrested last month by the anti-drug trafficking unit of the Haiti National Police in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and transferred to Miami within hours, where he'll face trial on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges.
In a highly unusual move, Philippe pleaded his innocence, called on supporters to continue demonstrating for his immediate return to Haiti and accused former classmate and Haitian Senate President Youri Latortue of heading the conspiracy leading to his unexpected arrest.
The Miami Herald reports that Philippe did it all in a three-minute recording that went viral on the WhatsApp messaging service.
“They have absolutely no proof that I am involved in drugs,” Philippe proclaimed in French Creole from his jail cell at the Miami Federal Detention Center.
“They are calling people in prison, offering to reduce their time, calling people in Haiti, offering them visas so that they could come testify against me to condemn me, because they don't really have any evidence against me,” he added.
Philippe was charged under an indictment that was returned by a US federal grand jury 12 years ago and unsealed last month.
According to the indictment, Philippe is accused of cocaine trafficking and money laundering from 1997 to 2003. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.
The US Attorney's Office also is seeking to recover US$1.5 million in drug profits from him.
An ex-member of Haiti's disbanded armed forces and a former police commissioner, Philippe rose to international prominence 13 years ago this month after leading a caravan of heavily armed militiamen into Port-au-Prince amid a bloody coup that removed then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power on February 29, 2004.
Last November, Philippe was elected to the Haitian Senate to represent the Grand Anse region, in southwestern Haiti.
He was arrested as part of an undercover operation just days before his swearing in. If Philippe was sworn in as a senator, he would have had immunity from prosecution during his six-year term.
Since his arrest, it's reported that along with supporters he tried unsuccessfully to obtain documents from the Senate to support an immunity claim.
It said Philippe's wife, Natalie, who resides in the US, confirmed it was her husband on the recording.
Philippe's defense lawyer, Zeljka Bozanic, also told the Miami Herald that “it was Guy. The statement that he made, it was obviously his voice.”
Philippe's trial is scheduled for the week of April 3.