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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

US, Cuba Teams Discuss Telecommunications Issues

US delegation visited Cuba this week as the two nations continued efforts to restore diplomatic relations broken over 50 years ago
More

Egyptian Court Adjourns Trial of Al Jazeera Journalists to April 22

Two journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist organization, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt banned following 2013 army takeover
More

Rio Exhibition Dramatizes Olympian Bay Cleanup Task

Display highlights problem of trash in Guanabara Bay, where sailing, windsurfing events are to take place in next Summer Games
More

Chile Says Drought Permanent, Lays Out Water Plan

President Michelle Bachelet says government will invest in desalinization plants and reservoirs to ensure access to potable water
More

Poll: Venezuelan Leader's Popularity Inches Up to 25%

Rise comes after United States declared Venezuela a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials
More

High Winds, Drought Feed Chilean Forest Fires

Blazes have ravaged swaths of China Muerta and Nalca Lolco reserves and Conguillio national park, revered for its ancient forests
More