The former mayor of a rural town in Haiti is due to make his first appearance in a U.S. court in Boston on Thursday over a lawsuit accusing him of murdering, torturing and burning the homes of his political opponents between 2007 and 2009.
Jean Morose Viliena fled Les Irois, Haiti around January 2009 when authorities there began investigating. He had been working as a school bus driver while living in Malden, Massachusetts, according to lawyers for three former
Viliena, backed by an armed militia, committed human rights abuses by routinely using violence against perceived political opponents or people who complained about how he governed the town of about 22,300 people, the lawsuit said.
In court papers, Viliena denied the allegations. Viliena is serving as his own attorney.
Lawyers with the Center for Justice and Accountability representing three Haitian nationals said they filed the lawsuit seeking unspecified damages in March because Viliena has not been convicted in Haiti.
The Center has won civil judgments in U.S. courts against two former Haitian military officials accused of overseeing violence against civilians and then fleeing Haiti.
The lawyers have proposed a March 2018 trial date for Viliena. Earlier this month they submitted a written settlement offer, according to court papers. The dollar amount was not specified.
According to a filing on Friday, Viliena claimed he “cannot pay the amount of the settlement demand and does not believe that plaintiffs have any interest in settling.”
The lawsuit took a turn a day after it was filed, when one of the three people, Nissage Martyr, fell suddenly ill while watching football with neighbors in Les Irois and died on the way to hospital.
Martyr’s wife has since filed a criminal complaint and request for authorization of an autopsy in Haiti, according to court papers. The death remains under investigation.