LAWYER QUES­TIONS EN­VOY

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY JAMES MOR­RI­SON

A top Haitian lawyer is per­plexed by U.S. Am­bas­sador Ken­neth H. Merten, who has stoked con­tro­versy over whether Haitian Pres­i­dent Michel Martelly holds U.S. cit­i­zen­ship in vi­o­la­tion of Haiti’s con­sti­tu­tion.

Stan­ley Gas­ton, pres­i­dent of the Port-au-prince Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, on Mon­day ques­tioned why Mr. Merten in­voked U.S. privacy laws when he dis­cussed Mr. Martelly’s cit­i­zen­ship at a news con­fer­ence with the Haitian pres­i­dent last week.

“Lis­ten to me good,” Mr. Gas­ton told re­porters in the Haitian cap­i­tal. “If Pres­i­dent Martelly is not an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, then the United States doesn’t have to go into this de­bate at all.”

At last week’s news con­fer­ence, Mr. Merten said: “Pres­i­dent Martelly is not Amer­i­can. He is Haitian.”

The am­bas­sador, how­ever, also ap­peared to ob­fus­cate mat­ters by adding that U.S. privacy laws are “very strict.”

“I don’t have the right to dis­cuss the file, whether they are a pres­i­dent or one of my friends, with­out the per­mis­sion of the per­son con­cerned,” Mr. Merten was quoted as say­ing.

His ref­er­ence to a “file” was not ex­plained.

A Haitian par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that Mr. Martelly might hold dual U.S.Haitian cit­i­zen­ship or might have re­nounced his Haitian cit­i­zen­ship be­fore he ran for pres­i­dent last year.

In ei­ther case, he would be in­el­i­gi­ble to hold his of­fice.

Be­fore he ran for pres­i­dent, Mr. Martelly was an en­ter­tainer who fre­quently per­formed in Mi­ami. He owns a house in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Gas­ton noted that the am­bas­sador’s com­ment adds to the con­fu­sion of the sit­u­a­tion, which was mud­dled ear­lier by a state­ment from a top aide to Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on a re­cent visit to Haiti.

Ch­eryl Mills, Mrs. Clin­ton’s chief of staff, also re­ferred to U.S. privacy laws in a dis­cus­sion with a mem­ber of the Haitian com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Martelly.

“Ac­cord­ing to the law of the United States that pro­tects the pri­vate lives, Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tions do not have the au­thor­ity to give in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing its cit­i­zens,” Ms. Mills was quoted as say­ing.

Mr. Gas­ton noted that Amer­i­can of­fi­cials have no re­spon­si­bil­ity to abide by U.S. privacy laws if they are not dis­cussing U.S. cit­i­zens..

“When one speaks, a lawyer lis­tens closely with a lot of in­ter­est, an­a­lyz­ing what you are say­ing,” Mr. Gas­ton said. “What in­ter­ests me are the things that did not have to be said.”

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