Aristide to sue French, US envoys for abduction

10th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 10 (AFP) - A French lawyer acting for Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Wednesday that the ousted Haitian leader plans to press charges against the French and US ambassadors in Haiti for abduction, claiming he was forcibly removed from power last month.

PARIS, March 10 (AFP) - A French lawyer acting for Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Wednesday that the ousted Haitian leader plans to press charges against the French and US ambassadors in Haiti for abduction, claiming he was forcibly removed from power last month.

"President Aristide has asked me to lodge a lawsuit in France ... for abduction and illegal detention" against French ambassador Thierry Burkard, the lawyer, Gilbert Collard, told AFP.

He added that a US lawyer, Ira Kurzban, was to lodge a similar lawsuit in the United States against the US ambassador, James Foley.

Kurzban told a news conference in Paris on Wednesday that he planned to file the lawsuit.

The US lawyer was on his way back to the United States after meeting Aristide in the Central African Republic, where the ousted Haitian leader has been since being flown out of Haiti on board an aircraft organised by the US government on February 29.

On arrival in Bangui on March 1, Aristide said he still considered himself the country's elected president and said he was the victim of a "coup d'etat".

The French foreign ministry said Tuesday that Aristide had signed a formal letter of resignation. Aristide's departure ended a three-week rebellion in Haiti.

Aristide's French lawyer said he was awaiting a written mandate to proceed with the lawsuit against the French ambassador. Collard said there was testimony from several witnesses and photographs that would support their case.

"The administration of (US President George W.) Bush wanted to pull Aristide out of Haiti... and France gave its help under conditions which are contrary to international law," Collard told the state-owned France Inter station in a seperate interview.

"President Aristide would like legal action to be taken against the person who made his kidnapping happen - that is to say, the French ambassador in Haiti," he said.

"The foreign ministry tells us that a democratically-elected president of the republic in a free country can resign outside all constitutional procedures, during the night while surrounded by armed men and that that constitutes a constitutional resignation," the lawyer said.

"I call that a kidnapping," he added.

A US-led multinational military force is currently trying to re-establish order ahead of the June deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.

Aristide accuses France of colluding with the United States to force him from power.

He maintains that armed US forces took him and his wife Mildred - who holds US citizenship - out of Haiti against their will and he has said that he considers himself a prisoner in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, which is a former French colony.

The 53-nation African Union has endorsed Aristide's claim that he was removed by "unconstitutional" means and expressed concern that this "set a dangerous precedent for a duly elected person."

A delegation from South Africa arrived in Bangui Wednesday to hold talks with Aristide after Pretoria said it was open to granting him exile.

Aristide's US lawyer this week asked US Attorney General John Ashcroft to "investigate and prosecute all persons who were involved in the kidnapping of President Aristide" and his wife.

The United States maintains that Aristide left of his own volition and that he feared for his life when rebels began closing in on the capital Port-au-Prince.

"He was not forced out; he was not kidnapped; he was not ridden out on a rail," US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday. "He was with his people, his bodyguards, who told him it was time to leave. He agreed, wrote his letter of resignation, and then went."

The French foreign ministry has described Aristide's claims as "out of place and inappropriate".

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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