Haiti ex-president Aristide’s convoy comes under fire

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The motorcade of ex-Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide came under fire in the capital Monday after he appeared as a witness in a money laundering case, his lawyer said.

Several hundred supporters of the ex-head of state had taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince as he made the rare appearance at the request of a judge.

“The motorcade has come under fire and this is tantamount to an assassination attempt,” said Mario Joseph, who represents the former president.

He said the shots were fired at the rear door where Aristide was sitting.

“He is unharmed, but one person is injured and recovering in hospital,” the lawyer said.

Forced to quit power and flee the country in 2004, Aristide has made only very rare public appearances since his return from exile in South Africa in 2011.

The 63-year-old gave testimony Monday for more than two hours, during which he “responded to questions from the investigating judge. He said what he knew,” said Joseph.

“The judge is investigating the accused Jean Anthony Nazaire, who worked as security chief during Mr Aristide’s tenure. This is why he was heard.”

Following Aristide’s questioning, crowds followed his convoy through the streets, some waving pictures of their hero.

Thirteen years after his forced departure, the firebrand former shantytown priest, nicknamed “Titid,” still arouses stronger feelings than any other Haitian politician.

Adored by most residents of poor neighborhoods, he is considered by others to be responsible for political instability and insecurity in the capital.

“Being there, we proved to the entire world that Aristide is and will always remain the king of the country of Haiti,” said Paul Moise, one of the demonstrators.

“No one is above the law: they invited him, he came.”

– First democratically-elected president –

Aristide was Haiti’s first democratically-elected president when he came to power in 1991, but he was ousted later that year in a military coup.

After a period in exile in the United States, he returned in 1994 to finish his mandate.

He was elected again in 2001, but again forced from office three years later by large protests and an armed rebellion.

In 2013, he presented himself as a witness before a judge investigating the assassination of top journalist Jean Dominique, who was killed in the capital in 2000.

He has not, however, responded to the many calls of a judge investigating suspicions of corruption and embezzlement during his presidency.

Aristide’s absence was noticeable at the funeral of his former prime minister Rene Preval on March 11.

-AFP

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