Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Duvalier 'faces corruption charges'

Ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who faces corruption charges, is led out of his hotel by Haitian police (AP)
Police officers take former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier from his hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (AP)

A judge will decide whether former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will be tried on charges that include corruption and embezzlement for allegedly pilfering the treasury before he was deposed in 1986.

A judge questioned the former dictator in a closed-door court session, Duvalier's defence lawyer Gervais Charles said.

The decision to move towards a trial makes clear that whatever Duvalier's reasons for returning to Haiti on Sunday, the government is poised to take the opportunity to seek justice for his 15-year regime, widely regarded as brutal and corrupt.

Mr Charles said the case was now in the hands of a judge of instruction who would decide whether there was enough evidence to go to trial, a process that can take up to three months.

Several hundred Duvalier supporters gathered outside the court yesterday, burning tyres, chanting slogans and calling for the arrest of President Rene Preval, then cheering as Duvalier left for his hotel under police escort.

Earlier, some supporters had tried to block streets with overturned dustbins and rocks to keep police from taking Duvalier from his hotel to the court.

There are no signs of widespread support for Duvalier, however. Demonstrations on his behalf have been relatively small by Haiti standards - more than half the nation's people are too young to have lived through his government.

Haiti's system allows for pre-trial detention, but Duvalier was allowed to remain free, though he cannot leave the country. His long-time companion Veronica Roy said on Monday that Duvalier expected his trip from France, where he has lived in exile, would last three days.

Amnesty International issued a statement praising what it called "the arrest" of Duvalier, but said it was just a start.

"If true justice is to be done in Haiti, the Haitian authorities need to open a criminal investigation into Duvalier's responsibility for the multitude of human rights abuses that were committed under his rule including torture, arbitrary detentions, rape, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions," the group said.

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