19 Jan 2011

Former Haiti leader charged with corruption

5:08 pm on 19 January 2011

The former leader of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, has been charged with corruption and embezzlement during his 15-year rule.

Mr Duvalier made a surprise return to Haiti on Sunday after 25 years in exile, saying he had "gone to help" after a devastating earthquake last year.

Mr Duvalier, 59, was questioned for more than an hour in his room at the Hotel Karibe by the chief prosecutor and a judge.

He was then escorted by police down through the hotel lobby, but was not handcuffed. He was accompanied by his wife.

Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Aristidas Auguste later said his office had filed charges of corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other crimes committed during the former president's period in power.

The chief prosecutor said a judge would decide if a trial should go ahead.

Outside the hotel, a group of supporters called for Mr Duvalier to be released and the current President Rene Preval to be detained instead.

"The revolution is beginning, arrest Preval," they chanted.

CNN reports that human rights groups have been demanding that Mr Duvalier be prosecuted for the killing and torture of thousands of opponents during his rule from 1971 to 1986.

The US State Department said on Tuesday that Mr Duvalier's return to Haiti adds to its burdens.

Haiti is in a political crisis caused by inconclusive elections held on 28 November. It is also 12 months since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake caused much devastation.

Mr Duvalier said on Sunday he had returned to show solidarity to Haiti and wanted to participate in its "rebirth."