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Aristide Plans to Sue France and the US
Published on Thursday, March 11, 2004 by the lndependent/UK
Aristide Plans to Sue France and the US
by John Lichfield in Paris and Andrew Buncombe in Washington

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the deposed president of Haiti, plans to bring legal actions against the French and American governments, accusing them of "kidnapping" him and forcing him into exile.

A Haitian holds a picture of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in Port-au-Prince March 10, 2004. Supporters of the exiled Aristide vowed on Wednesday they would fight a civil war and kill American soldiers if Washington does not allow the man, seen by Haiti's poor as a messiah, to return. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte
French and American lawyers acting for Mr Aristide said yesterday he also planned lawsuits against individuals, including Véronique Albanel, the sister of the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, and the writer Régis Debray.

Washington and Paris say Mr Aristide left power voluntarily 10 days ago to avoid bloodshed and save himself when rebels menaced the capital, Port-au-Prince. The former president, in exile in the Central African Republic, claims he was bundled on an aircraft by US forces at gunpoint after being told he was being taken to make a radio speech to the nation.

An American lawyer, Brian Concannon, said in Paris that Mr Aristide had instructed him to make "preparations for a kidnap case against the American authorities". Mr Concannon also said French and US authorities threatened Mr Aristide before he signed a letter of resignation and fled. "The ambassadors of France and the US told him he would be killed, his family would be killed and his supporters would be killed if he did not leave right away," Mr Concannon said. Ira Kurzban, another American lawyer for Mr Aristide, has written to Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, demanding an investigation of Mr Aristide's departure.

"The failure or refusal to do that would result in our going to the International Court of Justice" in the Netherlands, Mr Kurzban said.

A French lawyer, Gilbert Collard, said he was preparing a case for "abduction and sequestration" against the French government. M. Collard said legal actions for "complicity" in kidnapping would also be brought against the French ambassador in Haiti, Thierry Burkared, and his predecessor, Yves Gaudel.

The former president has also accused the Bush administration of preventing his privately contracted security team from sending reinforcements to Haiti.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


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