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‘Bold’ fugitive angers Haitian exiles in N.Y.

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NEW YORK — Haitian-American leaders, outraged by the increasingly visible presence in Queens of a man accused of killing thousands in Haiti, are renewing a call to send the man back there for trial.

For more than five years, Emmanuel Constant, 43, the leader of a Haitian paramilitary group in the early 1990s, has lived intermittently with an aunt on a quiet street in southeast Queens since 1994, popping up at restaurants, coffee shops and nightclubs in Brooklyn and Queens and on Long Island.

His presence in the city has always angered Haitian exiles and human rights advocates who have tried to persuade the United States government to extradite him on murder charges.

But lately, Constant, who is known as Toto, has been more visible than ever. He has taken a job as a real estate broker, selling houses in Cambria Heights, the heart of the Haitian-American neighborhood in Queens. And last week, after watching a discussion on public access television about a rally against him planned for on Saturday, he called the station and asked to be interviewed.

"He's gotten progressively bolder," said Ray Laforest, a labor organizer and leader of the Haiti Support Network, an advocacy group. "He's enjoying the good life, and his victims have memories they can never forget."

A few months ago, Laforest and other Haitian-American leaders got wind of Constant's employment at Rigaud Realty, a small agency in Queens. He has been seen there regularly and was spotted as recently as last week.

"In the eyes of the community, a criminal like him shouldn't be around," said Jean Etienne, 57, an Haitian immigrant who says he has often seen Constant.

Patrick Rigaud, the owner of the realty business, declined to discuss Constant's employment there, except to say: "He has a real estate license. He used to work here."

Human rights advocates and Haitian-American leaders organized a rally and march for Saturday outside Rigaud Realty and the house where Constant is believed to live.

In Haiti, Constant emerged in 1993 as the head of a right-wing paramilitary group, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, which has been accused of torturing and killing thousands of supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted in a coup. Constant eluded Haitian prosecutors and used a valid tourist visa to flee to the United States.

The Haitian government, which has repeatedly called for Constant's extradition, is now moving to prosecute officers who led the coup.

Amid the outcry over his presence in Queens, Constant was arrested in 1995 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at his aunt's house and detained for a year. A deportation order was issued while he was in jail, but he was abruptly released in 1996 and has been allowed to stay in the country on the condition that he report regularly to the INS.

Federal officials said at the time of Constant's release that his return to Haiti would further destabilize the government there, and they have since argued that the Haitian justice system is not equipped to give him a fair trial. But many say they suspect that Constant, who had been a paid informer for the CIA in Haiti, struck a deal with the federal government, winning his release in exchange for his silence about the CIA.

Neither the Justice Department or immigration officials would comment Friday on Constant's release or on the status of his case.