Ex-dictator case postponed, court chaos

2013-02-08 10:26
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and his wife Veronique Roy Duvalier arrive in front of the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince. (Thony Belizaire, AFP)

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and his wife Veronique Roy Duvalier arrive in front of the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince. (Thony Belizaire, AFP)

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Port-Au-Prince - A Haitian judge postponed a hearing for former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, wanted for corruption, misappropriation and embezzlement, after he failed to show up in court on Thursday.

The appeals court judge rescheduled the hearing for 21 February, accepting a request from Duvalier's attorneys because the original date coincided with the 27th anniversary of his ouster, and they worried about violence in the streets.

Duvalier's lawyers and victims of his regime sparred in court.

"Where is Duvalier? Why isn't he in court? Is he above the law?" asked an angry Robert "Boby" Duval, who spent several years in prison under the dictatorship.

Frizto Canton, one of Duvalier's lawyers, said his boss "does not want to bow before the courts; he wants to be convinced that the rule of law is respected by our prosecutors".

"Arrest, try, sentence Duvalier!" young protesters chanted outside the court in downtown Port-au-Prince.

A group of Duvalier supporters shouted back, with one saying: "Jean-Claude did good for Haiti. He didn't kill anyone. When he was in power, life wasn't as expensive as today. The country has been destroyed since he left."

Duvalier, former president for life of the impoverished Caribbean nation, was overthrown on February 7 1986 after nearly 30 years of dictatorship inherited from his father, the late "Papa Doc" Francois Duvalier.

Letter explaining absence

Duvalier's lawyers went to court in his place and handed the judge a letter explaining his absence.

In the letter, Duvalier complains of "confusion" in the case, saying the court "is taking the side of the civil case".

"There is some confusion about the role and attribution linked to the facts that should be cleared up," the letter said, according to excerpts obtained by AFP.

"I request clarification from the court of appeals on the issues raised by my lawyers."

Duvalier's lawyers have questioned a decision to accept the testimony of former victims of the dictatorship who have also filed a civil suit against him.

And Canton said it was "reckless" for the judge to summon Duvalier on 7 February.

"This date carries far too much bitterness, resentment and emotion from either side.

It is seriously reckless to ask Mr Duvalier to appear before the court on a February 7," he said.

The lawyer rejected the allegations against his client as "complete rubbish."

"Duvalier has already been tried in France, Haiti and Switzerland. He cannot be tried another time," the attorney added.

A judge has recommended that Duvalier only face charges for financial crimes and not for alleged human rights abuses.

Read more on:    jean-claude duvalier  |  haiti  |  human rights

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