Aristide lawsuit against us france over kidnapping
Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
Aristide Defiant, to Sue US, France, Over Kidnapping
Mar 8, 4:34 PM (ET)
By Andrew Gray
BANGUI (Reuters) - Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide appealed from exile in Africa on Monday for peaceful resistance to what he called the "occupation" of Haiti and insisted he had been abducted by U.S. forces.
Appearing for the first time in public since his arrival in the Central African Republic a week ago as a rebellion plunged his homeland into chaos, Aristide said he still regarded himself as Haiti's legitimate leader.
"I am the elected president and I remain the elected president," Aristide told a news conference, looking composed in a dark blue suit with his wife seated at his side. "I am pleading for the restoration of democracy."
Washington has flatly denied Aristide's allegations of kidnapping, saying it helped him leave Haiti but the decision to go was his own. His supporters have alleged that a resignation letter he signed is invalid as he wrote it under duress.
Aristide said U.S. officials had told him before he left Haiti that he could speak to the news media but then took him directly to the airport.
"The fact is there was a political abduction," Aristide said in the Central African capital Bangui.
"This unfortunately has paved the way for occupation and ... we launch an appeal for peaceful resistance (in Haiti)," he said. "I'm choosing my words carefully: for peaceful resistance."
His call came a day after suspected supporters of the exiled leader sprayed gunfire at thousands of jubilant revellers celebrating his downfall in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, killing at least six and wounding 18.
U.S. Marines are leading an international peace mission in Haiti approved by the United Nations to restore order after days of looting and shooting following his flight into exile.
One of Aristide's lawyers, Gilbert Collard, said in Paris he and an American colleague would file lawsuits in France and the United States in the next few days, alleging that French and U.S. authorities had kidnapped the Haitian president, once they received full authorization from Aristide.
"The suits will target the Bush administration and the French government," he said. "If we get support from some African states, we will also appeal to the relevant commission of the United Nations."
ANNOYANCE AT ACCUSATIONS
Central African authorities have expressed annoyance over Aristide's repeated accusations against Washington. Foreign Minister Charles Wenezoui told him at the news conference it would be better if he did not talk about the situation in Haiti.
The event appeared in part to be an effort to quash reports Aristide was being held a virtual prisoner by his hosts.
"I have never been a prisoner here and I am not a prisoner here," Aristide said. "On the other hand, I was a prisoner on February 28, in the plane, where we spent 20 hours without knowing where we were going."
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became a champion of Haiti's impoverished masses when he helped overthrow the brutal Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986. But critics accused him of ruling autocratically and tolerating corruption.
He brushed off questions about his ultimate destination saying the important thing was to keep calling for the restoration of democratic rule in the poor Caribbean nation.
South Africa, which has backed Aristide in the past, said last week it would consider any official request for asylum.
The Central African Republic is a former French colony and one of the world's poorest countries. It has housed Aristide in an apartment in the presidential palace of General Francois Bozize, who seized power a year ago.
A group of Aristide supporters from the United States met him on Monday, a day after being refused access.
"I'm reassured in the sense that his material situation is pretty good," said Brian Concannon, an attorney representing Aristide's lawyer in the United States.
"I'm not reassured in the fact that he's in an area where it's difficult to communicate with the outside world."