Monday, January 16, 2006



Posted on Thu, Dec. 29, 2005

Doctor: Jailed priest has developed leukemia
A Harvard doctor said Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a former Miami activist now in jail in Haiti, has leukemia and needs immediate treatment.

Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest whose continued imprisonment in Port-au-Prince has become a cause célebre for political allies and human-rights advocates, has developed an early stage of leukemia, according to a prominent U.S. physician who runs hospitals in Haiti.

Dr. Paul Farmer, a friend and supporter of Jean-Juste, says the jailed priest has chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a form of the blood and marrow disease that progresses slowly but can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer.

In several e-mails and a telephone interview from Rwanda, where he is working this week, Farmer explained that he examined Jean-Juste without guards' knowledge on Dec. 23. He drew blood and brought it to Miami, where it was analyzed by a University of Miami hematologist.

''I can assure you he has leukemia,'' Farmer wrote to The Miami Herald on Wednesday.

Jean-Juste, known as ''Father Gerry'' when he lived in Miami and led the nation's most powerful Haitian rights group, was arrested July 21 for alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche.

He and his supporters vehemently deny the allegations. Many observers have expressed concerns that his detention is simply a move to silence Jean-Juste. Amnesty International calls him a ''prisoner of conscience'' and 42 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter demanding his release.

Since an armed rebellion ousted President JeanBertrand Aristide in February 2004, Jean-Juste has become a potent critic of the U.S.-backed transitional government. Police arrested him in Oct. 2004 for inciting violence, but he was released seven weeks later after a judge found the allegation baseless.

Many of the urban poor see Jean-Juste as a natural successor to Aristide, a former slum priest himself, and his Lavalas political movement.

After Jean-Juste's second arrest on July 21, Lavalas leaders tried to register him as a presidential candidate for elections tentatively scheduled for next month. But the electoral council rejected the application because the imprisoned Jean-Juste did not show up to register in person.

Earlier this month, more than 1,000 people marched through Miami to protest his incarceration.

''It's an outrage,'' said Steve Forester, a Miami attorney who has been organizing the campaign to free Jean-Juste. ``He's a nonviolent priest. He's a prisoner of conscience. And if the Bush administration wanted him out, they'd get him out.''

``This is about saving his life.''

Farmer, a Harvard professor and expert in infectious diseases, wrote that ``Father Gerry's in serious trouble if he isn't released from jail for proper work-up in the States.''

He said the priest, at the very least, needs a CT scan and a bone marrow biopsy -- procedures Jean-Juste does not trust doctors commissioned by the Haitian government to perform.

Farmer said the University of Miami blood specialist told him that the cancer is progressing rapidly and could turn into a more virulent form of leukemia. Because of the unorthodox circumstances in which the blood was drawn, Farmer said the hematologist did not want to be named.

Their findings support those of another U.S. doctor, John Carroll, who examined Jean-Juste earlier in the month and reported finding enlarged lymph nodes and abnormal white blood cell counts.

Haitian officials have countered that their own doctors examined Jean-Juste and found no sign of cancer, according to The Associated Press. A government spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Farmer said the cancer itself is not likely an immediate threat to Jean-Juste's life, but because it weakens his immune system, an infection could be fatal.


© 2005 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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