Rare court appearance for former Haiti president

Former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide held a three-hour, closed-door audience on May 8 with a Haitian investigative judge, in connevtion with the ongoing murder investigation into the unsolved assassination of agronomist-turned-journalist Jean Léopold Dominique.

At the urging of Dominique’s widow, former radio journalist Michèle Montas, Judge Yvickel Dabresil has been trying to determine the “intellectual author” behind Dominique’s murder and that of a security guard 13 years ago in the courtyard of Dominique’s Radio Haiti.

“It has been a long, bloody and tortuous investigation, but I feel there is now a light at the end of the tunnel,” Montas told reporters afterwards. “Will we ever find justice? I don’t know, but I think we have moved forward.

“I hope this testimony and other crucial ones the judge has gathered in the last few months will allow the truth to finally come out on who engineered, planned the assassination and paid for the crime,” she added.

Dr. Maryse Narcisse, Aristide’s spokeswoman, who accompanied former president inside the courthouse in a rare public appearance, declined to say what was discussed during the secret testimony.

“Jean-Dominique was a friend, a brother to him,” said Narcisse about Aristide. “He believes that as a citizen when the justice summons him, it is his duty to collaborate. Today was an occasion for him to exercise his right as a citizen by being present in court.”

Aristide, 59, a former Roman Catholic priest, is the founder and head of Fanmi Lavalas, once the most powerful political party in Haiti, Aristide was twice exiled during his two separate presidencies.

The former Haitian president returned to his native land two years ago after a seven-year exile in South Africa.

Judge Dabresil had summoned a long list of persons in the court hearing, including former President René Préval, who testified last month.

Préval, a close friend of Dominique’s who reopened the case during his 2006-2011 presidency, spent about four hours inside the judge’s chambers.

He told reporters afterwards that it was only natural for the judge to call him, given his close relationship with the activist. He was the second former Haitian president to appear in court in weeks.

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