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2 Americans accused of conspiracy jailed in Haiti street march

Two Americans jailed in Haiti were charged with conspiracy for participating in a street march that pressed for the return of the country's disbanded army, a Haitian government official said Sunday.

Reginald Delva, Haiti's secretary of state for public security, said Jason W. Petrie and Steven P. Shaw were charged Saturday night because of their involvement in last week's march. Petrie, 39, is from Barberton, Ohio; and Shaw, 57, is from Dighton, Mass.

"They were providing logistical support," Delva said by telephone.

Authorities say Petrie and Shaw were drivers for a group of ex-soldiers and their young followers who marched in Haiti's capital Friday for the army's return. The demonstration drew hundreds of supporters who donned mismatching military uniforms, including Petrie, who wore an army T-shirt, and Shaw, who wore camouflaged pants.

Petrie, a sometime interpreter for foreigners because of his two-decade involvement in Haiti, told the Associated Press while he was in jail that he knew the leaders of the band of the aspiring soldiers and described them as friends. He was merely lending a hand, he said. Shaw said he was helping Petrie.

"There wasn't some American plotting against the government or causing instability. I think he got in a little over his head," Ben Petrie, a brother, said by phone from his home in Ohio. "I don't know what he was thinking, but I can say unequivocally that there was no conspiracy."

Ben Petrie, 37, said his brother had only the best intentions for a country he fell in love with.

"Some would say he has no business getting involved in Haiti's business, and I would agree with that," Ben Petrie said. "But he's tired of the situation in Haiti and wants to see Haiti stand up on its own two feet."

The pro-army march Friday began peacefully but turned violent in the afternoon when people began throwing rocks at United Nations peacekeepers and shots were later fired outside an old military base.

Police locked up 48 other people on a range of charges that included possession of illegal weapons and not having paperwork for driving motorcycles. One of the leaders, a former sergeant named Aubin Larose, was charged with assault on a police officer.

Two other Americans and a Canadian were held for questioning for 24 hours in a police station lobby because they tried to bring medicine to Petrie for his diabetes. They were released late Saturday.

The detentions were part of a broader effort by the Haitian government to crack down on the groups of ex-soldiers and their young followers who were pressing President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign pledge of reinstating the armed forces, which was dissolved in 1995 because of its involvement in coups and other abuses.

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