News / Americas

    Aristide Gives Evidence in Murder Case

    Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide wait outside his house for him to appear on his way to a court appearance, in the Tabarre neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, May 8, 2013.
    Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide wait outside his house for him to appear on his way to a court appearance, in the Tabarre neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, May 8, 2013.
    Reuters
    Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide appeared in public for the first time since returning from exile more than two years ago, testifying in court on Wednesday about the assassination more than a decade ago of a popular radio journalist and human rights activist.

    In a testament to his continued political sway, thousands of supporters sang pro-Aristide songs and waved his picture behind police barricades down the street from the courthouse. They had pledged to accompany him from his home in a Port-au-Prince suburb to the court and back despite a ban on demonstrations for the day.

    Aristide, still a polarizing figure, was accompanied by political allies and armed police guards to the judge's chamber in the capital where he spent just under three hours answering questions in the case of Jean Dominique, who was gunned down in April 2000 along with a security guard outside Haiti-Inter, the radio station he owned.

    Aristide smiled to reporters but made no comment as he left the left the courthouse.

    "The atmosphere was very cordial. The courts did a good job, the police provided good security," his lawyer, Mario Joseph, told Reuters after leaving court.

    Dominique's death occurred as Aristide was preparing to run for a second presidential term that year and Dominique was also rumored as a potential presidential candidate.

    While several low-level arrests of the suspected gunmen were made at the time, who ordered the murder has remained one of Haiti's great unsolved crimes.

    More than half a dozen people allegedly involved in the assassination have either been killed or have disappeared over the years, as well as several witnesses who claimed to have evidence in the case.

    For years Dominique's widow, Michele Montas, sought to have the case re-opened, hoping that Aristide and others could shed light on who was behind the crime.

    "The investigation has led to people close to the high levels of the Lavalas party that Aristide headed. He may not have given the green light but I am sure he knows who did it," Montas, 66, a former United Nations spokeswoman who was in New York, told Reuters.

    Aristide's lawyer declined to discuss the investigation, saying only that his client had been called as a witness.

    "The judge listened to what he had to say," Joseph said.

    Several high-profile witnesses and persons of interest have already been called to the chamber of the investigating judge, Yvickel DabrDesil.

    Former President RenDe PrDeval, who was in power at the time of Dominique's killing, slipped in and out of the courthouse for questioning without incident earlier this year.

    Violently ousted

    Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became Haiti's first democratically-elected leader in 1990, but was twice violently ousted from office and despatched into exile in 1991 and 2004.

    He was last seen in public in March 2011, on the morning he landed in Port-au-Prince after seven years of exile in South Africa.

    Aristide returned just two months after another former president, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, returned from a long exile, and it was feared their presence would upset political stability as the impoverished country struggled to recover from the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people and left more than one million people homeless.

    Aristides' appearance before the judge on Wednesday comes as hotly anticipated municipal and parliamentary elections are being planned.

    "President Aristide is ready to participate in justice," Joseph, Aristide's long-time attorney, told Reuters before the proceedings. He expressed concern that the former president's participation in the Dominique investigation was being used for political reasons.

    Dominique's murder was especially shocking at the time as he was a close friend of PrDeval, and a former supporter of Aristide. The killing was made into a 2003 documentary, The Agronomist, by the Oscar-winning American film director, Jonathan Demme.

    Montas, who left Haiti after an attempt on her life in 2002, said rumors that her husband planned to run against Aristide in the 2000 presidential elections were false. However, it was true that relations between the two former friends "had cooled tremendously," she said.

    "People thought he would run but he had no intention. He cared too much about his work as a journalist," she added.

    Although Aristide has an enormous popular base, particularly through his political party Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family), he is still a deeply divisive figure and any potential appearance of the former president carries security concerns.

    "Fanmi Lavalas will accompany the president from his home to court and back again, to make sure he gets home again," said Laurore Jean Wendy, an Aristide supporter.

    Although the Dominique proceedings may be standard, "for us, there's some other motivation behind it. It's a provocation, because elections are coming," he added.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.

    More Americas News

    Red Cross Scales Up Community Action to Combat Zika

    ICRCS is mobilizing its large volunteer force in affected communities to help them clear up trash and areas where mosquitoes can breed

    Haiti's Prime Minister Calls for Peace on 1st Day Without President

    Evans Paul urges Haitian protesters to end weeks of sometimes violent street marches and join a dialogue to create a transitional government

    Social Media Erupts in Support of Sikh Man Barred from Flight

    Waris Ahluwalia says he was barred from boarding a flight from Mexico City to New York because he refused to remove his turban

    Canada Ending Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

    Canadian PM Trudeau said a campaign of airstrikes is useful for bringing short-term gains, but not for long-term stability

    Cuban Baseball Stars, the Gurriel Brothers, Abandon Team

    A record 150 baseball players defected last year; Gurriels deemed exceptional loss because of skill, fame and perceived loyalty

    Colombia: Rebels Must Free Hostages Before Any Peace Talks

    National Liberation Army (ELN) has been holding civilian Ramon Jose Cabrales, of eastern Norte de Santander province, for five months