Ex-Priest Questioned in Jail Break

By Jane Regan
Miami Herald
February 24, 2005

A U.S. citizen and former priest was held and questioned for more than eight hours by Haitian police Wednesday in connection with Saturday's jail break in which heavily armed gunmen freed almost 500 prisoners.

Ron Voss was released Wednesday evening.

"Police let him go home for the night but they kept his passport, and he has to go back [Thursday] morning for questioning," said Bill Quigley, an American lawyer who was with Voss at the time of his arrest.

Voss, the director of Visitation House, a guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, the capital, was led away by a judge and a dozen police officers Wednesday afternoon. The arrest came less than 24 hours after Haitian Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse said the prison break was planned at Voss' guesthouse.

"There was a meeting that happened at an NGO [nongovernmental organization] called Parish Twinning. That is where people planned this operation," Gousse said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Visitation House is the Haitian office for the Tennessee-based Haiti Parish Twinning Program, which pairs U.S. and Haitian churches. The guesthouse also is often the base for delegations of volunteers from U.S. churches and other NGOs that work in Haiti's slums or interior.

The heavily armed police cut through a chain at the gate and then searched Voss' office and bedroom before taking him to the Haitian Judicial Police headquarters for questioning. Quigley, a law professor from Loyola University in New Orleans who is visiting Haiti, accompanied Voss.

"This is absolutely bizarre," Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told The Herald.

Gumbleton arrived in Haiti Monday with a delegation that is doing volunteer medical work in Cite Soleil, one of Haiti's poorer areas.

"For them to make this charge is so bizarre, you wonder how they could dream up such a thing," he said.

Voss is a former Catholic priest whose last diocese was in Lafayette, Ind. He has lived in Haiti for almost 20 years, and has run the guesthouse since it was founded more than a decade ago.


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