Aristide may be target of extradition

/ Source: The Associated Press

Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government plans to seek the extradition of ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide on charges of corruption and rights abuses, the justice minister said Thursday.

The move could further complicate Aristide’s efforts to find a permanent home in exile.

Aristide, who fled Feb. 29 as rebels were reaching the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, is in temporary asylum in Jamaica. Officials there have said he will move to permanent asylum in South Africa after that country’s general elections in two weeks.

In coming weeks Haitian authorities will appoint an independent body to investigate allegations of embezzlement and assassinations under Aristide, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse told The Associated Presss in an interview Thursday.

'Setting up a team'
“We are setting up a team to assemble all the violations ... for which he is responsible, and then we’ll formally ask for his extradition,” he said, refusing to give a time frame.

Aristide has charged he was kidnapped at gunpoint by U.S. agents and put on a plane to Central African Republic. Caribbean leaders returned him to temporary asylum in Jamaica.

The United States denies Aristide’s claims, saying it acted at his request and probably saved his life.

Aristide’s search for asylum has been complicated by countries unwillingness to deal with the diplomatic fallout from his charges against the United States.

Jamaica’s government gave him shelter on condition he made no political statements, so it was impossible to reach him for comment.

Opening the books
The interim Haitian government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue esitmates as much as $1 billion in state funds was pilfered under Aristide, and has ordered a formal audit by an international firm.

More than 300 people were killed in the three-week rebellion against Aristide, including scores of police officers accused of attacking Aristide opponents, along with street gangs allegedly armed by Aristide’s party.

Aristide became Haiti’s first freely elected leader in 200 years of independence in 1990.

He lost support as he turned to violence to subdue opposition, but his party remains the most popular political movement, especially among the majority impoverished people among the population of 8.3 million.