Haiti Crowds Defy Ban, Laud Reappearance of Ex-President Aristide

Thousands of supporters of Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have defied a ban on protests to follow his convoy through the streets.

Aristide was attending a courthouse in Port-au-Prince to answer questions about the murder of a well-known journalist in 2000.

It was his first appearance in public since his return from exile in 2011.

Police said they wanted to prevent a repeat of the mass demonstrations that greeted him then.

Aristide was ousted from Haiti from the second time in 2004 and sent to South Africa aboard a U.S. Air Force plane.

He has kept a low profile since returning in March 2011, but still commands the loyalty of a significant section of the impoverished Haitian population.

Unsolved crime

The former Catholic priest was in court on Wednesday to give evidence on the case of journalist Jean Dominique – killed in 2000 while Aristide was a leader of the opposition.

Who ordered the murder of Dominique remains one of Haiti’s great unsolved crimes, and the mystery became the basis of the 2003 documentary, “The Agronomist,” by the Oscar-winning American film director Jonathan Demme.

A series of high-profile figures have been called to give evidence into this latest investigation into the case – led by Judge Yvickel Dabresil – including former President Rene Preval, who gave evidence at the closed hearing earlier in the year.

Aristide’s meeting with Dabresil was “very relaxed” and “there was no new request for Aristide to appear in court and no confrontation,” his lawyer Mario Joseph said after the hearing, according to French news agency AFP.

Despite the police order banning demonstrations, thousands of Haitians followed his four-wheel-drive – bedecked with Haitian flags – as it weaved through central Port-au-Prince.

Singing pro-Aristide songs and holding up images of the former president, his supporters said they pledged to take him from his home to the court and back.

But correspondents said it constituted the largest demonstration against the government of President Michel Martelly this year.

Many of his supporters also voiced fears that political motivations lay beneath the summoning of Aristide to give evidence in the Dominique investigation.

Read more: BBC

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