Former US Lawmaker Assisting Duvalier as Human Rights Groups Call for Prosecution
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti -- A former U.S. congressman was among a group of American attorneys accompanying former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier as he spoke in the country's capital Friday.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr said he is not serving as Duvalier's attorney, but is in Port-au-Prince to consult, assist and be Duvalier's voice to the international community.
Barr represented Georgia's 7th District in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, and was the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee in 2008. He currently practices law and runs a consulting firm based in Atlanta.
"We have been asked by the former president and his family to assist him in his efforts," Barr told reporters in Port-au-Prince.
He is representing Duvalier along with two other Georgia attorneys -- Ed Marger and Mike Puglise -- according to a statement on Barr's website.
"This is really more of a personal trip helping Duvalier and his family," Barr told CNN affiliate WXIA before leaving for Port-au-Prince.
Duvalier stunned the world by returning suddenly to Haiti on Sunday after 25 years in exile in France.
Police escorted Duvalier to court Tuesday, where a judge questioned him for hours. He faces charges of corruption and embezzlement on allegations he stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the national treasury.
Human rights groups have mounted pressure on Haitian authorities to take Duvalier to court on abuse charges.
The human rights group Amnesty International said Friday that Haitian authorities are launching a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed during Duvalier's 15-year rule.
In his first public statement since his unexpected return, Duvalier told reporters Friday he wanted to be in Haiti to help with rebuilding the country after last year's devastating earthquake. He made no mention of any political ambition.
"The desire to participate at your side in this national reconstruction effort is more important than any of the problems I could face. The price to pay is not important. The essential (thing) for me is to be with you," Duvalier said.
Barr "will be representing" Duvalier "in bringing his message of hope to the world," the former Republican congressman's website says.
"I also am reminded of others who have risen from the ashes," Barr told reporters Friday. "The city of Atlanta is the Phoenix city. The people of Haiti, likewise, will rise from the problems created by last year's earthquake and emerge stronger and better than before. That I know is Mr. Duvalier's deep wish and something that he knows in his heart."
Duvalier spoke for roughly 10 minutes Friday at a private residence, and did not take questions from reporters. Earlier, he was expected to speak at a handful at public locations, but was forced to cancel because the owners of those places did not want him there.
CNN's Kimberly Segal and John Zarrella contributed to this report.