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.
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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics