Legal Ethics

Haitian Lawyer for US Missionaries Fired, Bribery Alleged

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Edwin Coq, the Haitian lawyer hired to help win the release of 10 U.S. missionaries arrested on kidnapping charges, has been fired for reportedly trying to buy their way out of jail.

Coq, however, has denied the allegations and instead insists that the $60,000 he requested from the missionaries’ families was his fee, USA Today and the Associated Press report.

Coq was hired by Dominican Republic lawyer Jorge Puello, who told the AP that he fired Coq because he had orchestrated ”some kind of extortion with government officials” to free nine of the 10 missionaries.

”He had some people inside the court that asked him for money, and he was part of this scheme,” Puello is quoted saying.

USA Today interviewed Haitians who weren’t surprised by the bribery accusations. “The judicial system is like going to a street market—you have to bargain for your sentence,” Patricia Louis, a third-year law school student in Port-au-Prince, told the newspaper.

Louis said corruption is especially common in high-profile cases or in which defendants have money.

Police officers Jean Claude blamed corruption, in part, on low pay for entry-level judges, known as justices of the peace, lawyers who earn less than $500 U.S. dollars a month.

The Americans held in Haiti are accused of kidnapping for trying to take 33 displaced children out of the country without proper documents. The Americans have maintained they were on a humanitarian mission and were taking the children, with the blessing of relatives, to be cared for in the Dominican Republic.

Also see:

Reuters: “High-Profile U.S. Case Tests Haitian Justice System” “Lawyer for 10 Baptists Blames Ringleader, Who Had Legal Troubles in US”

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