MIAMI -- Woody Marc Edouard knew when he saw the thug's gun swing toward his head that he should be leaving Haiti. But how could he go?
Take a raft? Too risky.
Apply for political asylum? Too dangerous.
Instead, at the spur of the moment last week, Mr. Edouard, 24, came up with a brash plan: He hijacked a plane at gunpoint. He has since been arrested, imprisoned and then -- amazingly -- freed on bond.
Now the dream is real. He lives in the heart of Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, in the home of a respected businessman, a hero to his people. On Thursday, his first full day of freedom, Mr. Edouard picked up an electronic monitoring bracelet and played dominoes with his new family.
He is a hijacker with a job: He helps sell records at the businessman's music store, Les Cousins Books & Records Shop. But this is only temporary. Soon, he believes, once democracy is restored in his country, he will return.
When reminded that he might never go home, that he might spend 20 years in a federal prison if convicted of aircraft piracy, Mr. Edouard seems surprised.
"Why should I go to jail?" he asked in a Thursday night interview. "I don't acknowledge that I committed a crime.
"I live in a democratic country," said Mr. Edouard, who was threatened by politicians angered by his support of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "If there was repression here, I would be afraid, but if there isn't any repression I am not afraid. I think the system will work for me, and I won't go to jail because I know the Haitian community is with me."
He is calm and unruffled, serene in his dreamy vision of life in America. In this place, he believes, the justice system is fair and a man forced to use a gun to win his freedom is no criminal.
What he does know is the hard life in Haiti and the death threats from politicians who don't share his point of view.
The son of a farmer and a sales clerk from a town bordering the Dominican Republic, he spent the last three years in Cap Haitian, a member of a group of unemployed young people who organized themselves.
They held biweekly meetings, discussing politics and the state of Haitian society. "I was always mobilizing the masses," he said. "By mobilizing I mean that we were trying to make people aware of what was going on."
Seven months ago, he got a job as a security guard for a travel agency in Port-au-Prince. The job paid $300 a month. The office stood outside the Parliament building. Every day, as politicians walked by, he says, he would confront them about "what they did that was wrong."
"I spoke to many of them face to face -- senators and deputies, men against Aristide, men against change," he said. "I told them all sorts of things that they deserved to hear, about what they did that was wrong."
He said the men threatened to send him to jail. They pulled guns on him. He said he was sure it was all over the day a politician's bodyguard pulled a gun on him outside the Parliament building.