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Duvalier's Lawyer Says Former Haitian Dictator Has Presidential Aspirations

Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, left, greets supporters from the balcony of his hotel room in Port-au-Prince, 19 Jan. 2011

A lawyer for Jean-Claude Duvalier says the former exiled leader of Haiti plans to stay in the country and hopes to run for president.

Reynold Georges told reporters Wednesday that Mr. Duvalier has the right to stay in Haiti, because it is "his country." Likewise, Georges said Mr. Duvalier is a politician at heart and has hopes of getting involved again in the political arena.

The former dictator made an unexpected return to Haiti Sunday after living 25 years in France.

Corruption charges

On Tuesday, he was charged with corruption, embezzlement and other abuses of power during his brutal 15-year rule. And Wednesday, a former U.N. spokesman and three other prominent Haitians accused Mr. Duvalier of crimes against humanity, including torture, in criminal complaints.

Human rights groups have long pressed for Mr. Duvalier to face justice for alleged human rights abuses, including the torture and killings of thousands of people. He also is alleged to have stolen millions of dollars in public funds.

But it is not clear whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Mr. Duvalier for atrocities during his rule.

Political crisis

This newest controversy comes at a time of political crisis in Haiti. A disputed election has triggered protests and allegations of fraud and a runoff election planned for this past Sunday was postponed.

Mr. Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," took power at age 19 after the death in 1971 of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957 and also was accused of brutality.

The Caribbean nation, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to recover after the January 12, 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left more than a million others homeless. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent cities, and many parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, remain in ruins. The country also is battling a deadly cholera epidemic.