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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Earthquake Rattles Mexico

US Geological Survey says quake measuring 7.5 on Richter scale, was centered in the western state of Guerrero, north of Acapulco beach resort
More

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support
More

Colombian Novelist Garcia Marquez Dies at 87

Author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982
More

Salsa Legend Cheo Feliciano Dies in Car Crash

Police say singer was alone in his jaguar when he hit a post before sunrise Thursday
More

NY Times: US Deportation of Illegal Immigrants Declines

Obama has come under increasing pressure from immigration advocates who have accused him of moving too slowly on immigration reform
More

Argentina's Fight with Bondholders Reaches US Supreme Court

The case concerns whether investors can force banks with which Argentina does business to disclose information about the country's non-US assets
More