The Associated Press reports that Haitian police say the demonstrator found slain after the clash with U.N. peacekeepers during the funeral procession for Father Gérard Jean-Juste was killed by a bullet, and not by a rock as the UN peacekeepers have insisted. A police inspector who spoke to the press two days ago added that ballistics tests are needed to determine who fired the fatal shot. The inspector, who viewed the autopsy report, spoke to the press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the autopsy. The information contradicts a statement issued by the UN spokesperson in Haiti just a day before, when she insisted that the protester found dead after a clash with UN forces following Jean-Juste’s funeral had not died from a bullet wound but from a blow to the head, probably from a stone or other object thrown during the demonstration. Opponents of the 9,000-member U.N. force, the Associated Press reports, are using the death to inflame passions against international troops stationed in Haiti since 2004.
The demonstrator, who remains unidentified, was killed June 18 as about 2,000 people marched with the casket of the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, an advocate for Haitian immigrants in Miami and a former candidate for office in Haiti, who died in May from complications of leukemia. He was a staunch supporter of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At least five Brazilian soldiers with the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission entered the back of the procession near Port-au-Prince’s Notre Dame cathedral on foot to arrest a marcher, who was later released. Other demonstrators threw rocks at the soldiers, who responded by firing at least eight shots into the air before leaving in a jeep. U.N. peacekeeping spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe said Monday that the Brazilian soldiers had some weapons loaded with rubber bullets and others with 7.62-milimeter caliber live ammunition. In television footage of the clash at least eight shots can be heard. It is not clear if all were fired by the soldiers. No one else is seen holding a firearm.
“We are confident that the autopsy reconfirmed that our troops were not responsible for this death,” Boutaud de la Combe said. She noted that preliminary information that the protester had been killed by a rock or other blunt instrument was incorrect. Both the death and the clash that preceded it have only added to growing tension surrounding the U.N. troops. The day before the funeral other protesters also calling for their departure burned a U.N. police vehicle, one of a series of anti-U.N. demonstrations this year. The U.N. and other diplomats have defended the soldiers’ decision to enter the funeral procession on the belief that they were arresting a wanted criminal.
Photo: Reuters [Residents carry the coffin of Reverend Gerard Jean-Juste during his funeral procession in Port-au-Prince June 18, 2009. The funeral procession for Jean-Juste, an allied of Haiti’s former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was broken up by gunshots from U.N. soldiers and at least one person was killed by stray bullets, according to witnesses. The U.N. has yet to make a statement on this incident.]