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Lawyers: Attackers Shot at Motorcade Carrying Former President Aristide

  • Associated Press

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, center, smiles as he greets supporters outside the courthouse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2017.

At least two people were wounded Monday when shots were fired at a motorcade carrying former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, lawyers for the ex-leader and a close political associate said.

Yvon Feuille, a senior executive of the Fanmi Lavalas political movement that Aristide founded decades ago, described the shooting at a bustling intersection in downtown Port-au-Prince as an "assassination attempt."

Feuille, who was in the motorcade with Aristide surrounded by chanting Lavalas supporters, alleged that the shooters were dressed as police officers.

Reached by telephone, Garry Desrosiers, spokesman for the Haitian National Police, said he did not immediately have any information about the attack or the allegations being made about the shooters. Subsequent calls went unanswered.

Aristide's U.S. lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said the shots were apparently "fired by uniformed police directly at the vehicle in which President Aristide was a passenger." At least two people standing in front of the car were hit, he said.

"Thank God no one was killed and at least one of the shooting victims was taken to the university medical center that President Aristide was instrumental in founding," Kurzban said in an email from Florida.

Aristide attorney Mario Joseph said the hospitalized man was a security guard hired to protect the former president.

The Lavalas party circulated a photograph showing some blood on a car's front bumper and headlight.

The incident occurred after Aristide appeared as a witness in a court hearing involving an associate who is facing a money-laundering probe.

Although he hasn't been in power for nearly 13 years, Aristide remains a highly divisive figure in Haiti, extremely popular with some and deeply reviled by others.

He emerged as a leading voice for Haiti's poor and became the troubled country's first democratically elected president in 1990, despite opposition from the army, Haiti's elite and the United States following the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

Aristide was toppled twice from power, his second term ending in 2004 amid a violent rebellion and allegations of corruption. He spent seven years in exile in South Africa.

The former Roman Catholic priest insisted he wouldn't get involved in politics upon his return to Haiti in 2011. But he actively campaigned for Maryse Narcisse, the Lavalas presidential candidate who finished fourth in a presidential election redo in November.

Before the campaign, he had mostly kept a low profile since returning. He was under house arrest in 2014 amid an investigation into corruption under his government.

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