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Freed Haitian lands in Tampa

Published Oct. 9, 2005

Now that he has been allowed into the United States, Kesner Celormy has a lot of things to do: go to school, get a job, spend some time with his wife.

And perhaps see a doctor.

Celormy, 22, has been told he has HIV, the AIDS virus. That diagnosis is why he spent 14 months at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But he doesn't quite believe it.

"Someone told me I have HIV," he said Monday through an interpreter. "I don't feel sick. I don't know what to believe."

Celormy, one of 27 Haitians released from Guantanamo on Monday in accordance with a federal court ruling last week, arrived at Tampa International Airport at 2 p.m., after a stopover in Miami.

He speaks no English. He is staying with friends in a small house just outside Ybor City. His friends, who speak very little English, translated during the interview.

Celormy said he is from Ile de la Gonave, a small Haitian island. He has had nine years of school. In Haiti, he supported himself by driving a small boat.

A supporter of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he said he fled because of "political problems."

He and his wife, Marie Camel Celormy, boarded a crowded boat more than a year ago, heading for Florida. They were intercepted at sea, they said, and a U.S. vessel took them to Guantanamo.

Marie Celormy, now 18, said she stayed at Guantanamo for 11 months. She said she has no health problems, and left three months ago.

The couple have no children.

Kesner Celormy was tired during Monday's interview. His eyes were bloodshot. Several times, he grew impatient.

He is angry that he was detained so long at Guantanamo. He said the guards there were hard on him, restrained him and even beat him for trying to escape.

Now that he is free, he said he wants to work. "Any kind of work," he said.