PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian authorities will rule before month’s end on whether the prosecution of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier moves to trial or gets dropped, the investigating judge told The Associated Press.
The announcement by Judge Carves Jean followed a closed hearing during which he admonished the former dictator known as “Baby Doc” for violating the terms of his conditional release by leaving the capital at least twice in recent weeks. Jean said he told Duvalier that “he’ll be going straight to the national penitentiary” if he leaves again without authorization.
Since he made an unexpected return a year ago, Duvalier has traveled the country and has been spotted dining with friends at high-end restaurants in the capital. He delivered a commencement speech to law school graduates in the coastal city of Gonaives last month and attended a memorial for quake victims outside the capital earlier this month.
His lawyers argue that Duvalier is free to go where he pleases because no law exists to restrict his movements.
“The judge was under pressure from human-rights groups, international and local,” defense lawyer Reynold Georges told reporters in front of the downtown courthouse. “This is why he called in President Duvalier.”
Duvalier said nothing Friday morning as he shuffled out of the building, his neck stiff and eyes darting, and waved to a scrum of supporters before climbing into a white Toyota Land Cruiser Prado that he drove himself.
Jean said Duvalier apologized for not seeking permission and said he couldn’t reach the judge on the telephone or didn’t have time to send a letter to ask permission to leave the capital.
Duvalier is under a judicial investigation for crimes including corruption and human-rights violations during his brutal 15-year rule. Despite pressure from rights groups, the prosecution has made little headway since it began days after Duvalier’s return following 25 years in exile in France.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International say there is sufficient evidence to bring Duvalier to trial and that it would be an important step forward for a judiciary associated with corruption and inefficiency.
Photo: Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier