Haitian refutes wife's claim that U.S. troops tortured him

October 21, 1994|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A Haitian who was seized in a U.S. Army sweep in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 2 says his wife's claim that American soldiers mistreated him is untrue.

Gerry Mourra, who is still being detained at an industrial plant in Haiti's capital, said through his Haitian lawyer this week that he was being treated well and that his wife had "misunderstood everything."

"All the things described by his wife were threats and had never been executed," according to Patrick Wooley, a lawyer in Haiti who had helped locate Mr. Mourra.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Mourra, 38, was identified by the U.S. military as one of four "ninja chiefs" who headed a security force that protected the army commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras.

The others were his brother-in-law, Alex Frombrun, 41, and cousins Romeo Halloun, 38, and Ramses Halloun, 34. Romeo Halloun has been described as General Cedras' chief bodyguard.

Mr. Mourra's wife, Michelle McGurk Mourra, told The Sun in Haiti last week that her husband had accused his U.S. interrogators of torturing him by pouring water in his nose and ears and by using his ankle manacles to throw him onto his head. She said he also complained of being blindfolded and gagged. She was interviewed after a 15-minute visit with her husband.

But Mr. Wooley, who visited Mr. Mourra on Tuesday, denied the allegations in a letter to Mrs. Mourra's Florida lawyer, Joseph B. McFarland: "When I saw Mr. Mourra today, he told me that so far he had been well-treated. When I asked about his mistreatment as underlined by his wife, he answered that his wife had misunderstood everything. All the things described by his wife were threats and had never been executed."

Inquiries from The Sun last week prompted the U.S. Atlantic Command's legal department to look into Mrs. Mourra's charges, according to Air Force Maj. Frank Bean, a command spokesman. Officials at the the Norfolk-based command concluded that "there was nothing to them," Major Bean said. An article in The Sun describing the charges triggered a second look by the Atlantic Command.

"There wasn't anything in the first place," Major Bean said. "There wasn't anything in the second place."

According to Mr. McFarland, "Mrs. Mourra has been under a great deal of strain because of her husband's detention."

U.S. forces in Haiti have detained and questioned about 200 people, about 40 of whom are still being held, the State Department reported yesterday. Those who aren't deemed a threat or who haven't committed a serious crime are released, said Christine Shelly, a State Department spokeswoman.

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