Abandoned American Aid Worker Hits Five-Month Mark in Haitian Prison

Two weeks ago, we reported on Danny Pye, a Christian aid worker who has been wrongly imprisoned in Jacmel, Haiti since October, 2010. Numerous Haitian officials, including at the Ministry of Justice, have acknowledged that Pye should be released. The U.S. Embassy, aware of Pye’s situation since the beginning, has done no more than write a strongly worded memo. Finally, last weekend, the Associated Press did a story on Pye.

The story (quite similar to our nearly 14-day old report) shed very little new light on the situation. The only new information shared was to note that the judge in the case “has been seriously ill and is unavailable.” As a matter of the fact, the judge, hardly “unavailable,” has perhaps gone mad, claiming to have been struck down “par une main invisible.

It was already not surprising that article 44 of Haiti’s Constitution (“Persons detained temporarily awaiting trial must be held separately from those who are serving sentence”) is not observed in Jacmel. And now, with the embassy giving an all-we-can-do shrug, Pye reports that human rights abuses are occurring in the prison.

Last Thursday, two days before the AP story was filed, Pye said that rumors about some prisoners planning a break-out circulated in the prison. The guards caught wind of the plan and, to make an example, lined the entire prison up in the yard and forced them to watch as the conspirators were beaten viciously. Pye said that at least one died.

Subsequently, all prisoners, including Pye, were denied food or water for 24 hours to send a message. Pye has also been Tased.

Meanwhile, one lawyer having other business with the judge in the case, Maxon Samedi, said that Samedi has gone mad, become ill and has fled to be healed by a “hougan,” a priest.

An American aid worker in Jacmel said that she doesn’t buy that Samedi is sick. She said that she and Haitians in Jacmel believe “he is hiding from the accusations against his poor performance.”

Judge Samedi has been reportedly given a month to recover from his injures sustained from the “par une main invisible.” Currently, he is the only one who can sign the papers and, despite all the supposed great concern from ostensibly powerful authorities, including a U.S. government consul that practically runs the rest of the nation, Samedi will not be compelled to do so. Instead, he will be resting for a month.

This means the least—the least—of Danny Pye’s worries is that he will miss the birth of his son.

Senator Marco Rubio’s office acknowledged that it is aware of the situation. Several calls to the office of Vern Buchanan, Pye’s Representative in Florida, were not returned. Senator Bill Nelson responded to my press inquiry with a form letter that everyone else asking about Danny Pye received: “I have been informed that the U.S. government is committed to providing Danny with all the appropriate assistance and is engaged with the Haitian government at the highest level to ensure that his case is resolved in a responsible way. ”

The U.S. Embassy has told Danny’s wife Leann that the ambassador wrote a letter. An American in Haiti who saw the ambassador’s letter to the minister of justice told us that, in essence, it said that the Embassy was aware of Pye’s case and that it requested it be expedited. “I felt the letter was strong, though I would like to have seen it be stronger yet,” he said.

The embassy told Leann that the letter is all it can do and from here on out it will monitor the situation to ensure Pye’s human rights aren’t violated.

But if having food and water withheld for days at a time and being Tased are not human rights violations, what are?


Above: Video of Pye last week in prison, shot by a visitor.Additional videos here.

The continued disinterest from America’s major media sources is amazing. A nine-month pregnant Christian woman with a wrongly accused pastor husband who will probably miss his son’s birth while enduring abuse in a Haitian prison offers no interest to Nancy Grace? After American college student Austin Bice went missing in Spain, his story littered the news. His parents were all over “Today” after he was missing for just a week. On Sunday, Pye will have been in prison for five months.

In a truly shocking turn, not even HuffPo has mentioned the case. Do you have any idea what an accomplishment it is that something like this has not found its way onto some page on HuffPo in two weeks? You couldn’t do that with a story if you wanted to.

It’s noteworthy that HuffPo has mentioned Pye, prior to his imprisonment. Back in February of 2010, a writer there mentioned how Pye sacrificed his own organization’s supplies to equip doctors helping with the post-earthquake aid effort.



Abe Sauer can be reached at abe sauer at gmail dot com.