PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Haitian police led ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier out of his hotel and took him to court Tuesday without saying whether he was being charged with crimes committed under his brutal regime.
A contingent of police led the former dictator known as "Baby
Doc" through the hotel and to a waiting SUV. He was not wearing
Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything. Asked by
journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion
Veronique Roy, laughed but said nothing. Outside the hotel, he was
jeered by some people and cheered by others.
The SUV drove in a convoy of police vehicles to a courthouse,
even as dozens of Duvalier supporters blocked streets with
overturned trash bins and rocks to try to prevent the former
dictator from going to prison.
The courthouse was thronged with spectators and journalists
trying to get in to view the proceedings. It was not immediately
clear whether the session would be open to the public - or what, if
any, charges had been filed against him.
His removal from the hotel came after he met in private with
senior Haitian judicial officials met inside his hotel room amid
calls by human rights groups and other for his arrest.
The country's top prosecutor and a judge were among those
meeting with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he has
been ensconced since his surprise return to Haiti on Sunday.
Dozens of Haitian National Police officers were posted inside
and around the hotel, some of them in riot gear or guarding the
stairwells. A police vehicle for transporting prisoners was parked
in front of the hotel's main door and all non-police traffic was
halted at the driveway.
Henry Robert Sterlin, a former ambassador under Duvalier who has
said in recent days that he was speaking as a spokesman for the
former dictator, told reporters at the scene he was shocked by the
developments. "Let's see if they put him in prison," he said.
None of the officials present would comment on what was being
discussed at the meeting. Asked by journalists why he was going to
meet Duvalier, Judge Gabriel Amboisse said, "I'm here to assist
the prosecutor because he asked me to be here with him."
Duvalier was forced into exile in 1986 in a mass uprising and
had been living in exile in France. Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch and others have urged the Haitian government to arrest
him for widespread abuses.
Duvalier assumed power in 1971 at age 19 following the death of
his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. The father and son
presided over one of the darkest chapters in Haitian history, a
period when thuggish government secret police force known as the
Tonton Macoute tortured and killed opponents.
The younger Duvalier still has some support in Haiti and
millions are too young to remember life under his dictatorship. His
abrupt return sent shock waves through the country, with some
fearing that his presence will bring back the extreme polarization,
and political violence, of the past.
He has not yet publicly commented on why he came back to Haiti.
His companion, Roy, told reporters he would stay three days.
His return comes as Haiti struggles to work through a dire
political crisis following the problematic Nov. 28 first-round
presidential election, as well as a cholera epidemic and a troubled
recovery from an earthquake.
Duvalier has also been accused of pilfering millions of dollars
from public funds and spiriting them out of the country to Swiss
banks, though he denies stealing from Haiti.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert
Colville said Tuesday that Duvalier's return increases the chance
that he could be charged with atrocities committed during his
15-year rule because it will be easier to bring charges in the
country where the crimes occurred.
He cautioned, though, that Haiti's fragile judicial system may
be in no position to mount a case.
Ousted Dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier Taken to Court
Nation caught off-guard by Duvalier returning after living 25 years in exile.
1982 file photo of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier
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