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Haiti PM orders arrest warrant against Aristide
Updated: 2004-11-13 08:57

Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said on Friday he ordered his justice minister to obtain an arrest warrant on corruption charges against ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Latortue, installed as the head of an interim government after the bloody rebellion that forced Aristide into exile in February, made the announcement as he formed a committee to investigate possible misappropriation of public funds and other acts of corruption by the Aristide government.

"I gave (Justice Minister Bernard Gousse) the order and I expect the warrant to be issued," Latortue told reporters.

Latortue and other Haitian officials have publicly accused Aristide of corruption, but no charges have been filed and no evidence made public against the former Roman Catholic priest, who remains hugely popular among many of Haiti's poorest citizens.

Under Haitian law, only judges have the power to issue arrest warrants.

Aristide, who led a populist uprising that helped oust the Duvalier family dictatorship in the mid-1980s, first came to power in the poor Caribbean nation in 1991 as its first freely elected president.

Ousted by the military a few months later, he was returned to the presidency by U.S.-led troops in 1994. Elected again in 2000, he was accused of despotism and corruption and forced into exile in South Africa after a revolt by street gangs and former soldiers and under pressure from the United States and France.

Latortue said if the warrant was not issued by Monday, he would write to Gousse to renew the order and set a deadline. He said he had issued the same order two months ago.

"This is something we should have done a long time ago and the time has come," said Latortue, calling on the international community, particularly Washington and Paris, to cooperate with Haiti's interim authorities in the fight against corruption.

Latortue appointed a five-member investigative committee led by Paul Denis, one of Aristide's fiercest opponents, to investigate the Aristide government from the beginning of his term in February 2001 to his departure on Feb. 29.

Denis, a leader of the Democratic Convergence coalition of political parties that opposed Aristide, vowed to carry out the investigation with "order, method and impartiality."

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