'Baby Doc' Duvalier Questioned, May Face Trial Prosecutors accuse former president of Haiti Jean-Claude Duvalier of corruption and embezzling millions of dollars during 15 years in power. His return after 25 years in exile alarms opponents, who say he tortured, killed and kidnapped those who spoke against him. A judge will decide whether he will be tried.
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'Baby Doc' Duvalier Questioned, May Face Trial

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'Baby Doc' Duvalier Questioned, May Face Trial

'Baby Doc' Duvalier Questioned, May Face Trial

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.


And Im Steve Inskeep.

We're tracking the odyssey of a dictator this morning. Former President Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti in the 1970s and '80s. He was called Baby Doc, the son of a longtime ruler. And then an uprising forced Duvalier into exile. Then, one year after his country's devastating earthquake, he has returned.

Now, prosecutors in Haiti are accusing Duvalier of corruption and embezzlement.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Port-au-Prince.

(Soundbite of chanting crowd)

JASON BEAUBIEN: Jean-Claude Duvalier was escorted out of his room at the Karibe Hotel by more than a dozen heavily-armed Haitian police in riot gear. As he descended the stairs of the hotel, he waved to several dozen of his supporters below.

Baurice Telemaque was holding a flyer with a photo of Jean-Claude Duvalier that said: Welcome Home, in Creole.

Mr. BAURICE TELEMAQUE: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: When he was president, I used to be able to live. I was working, Telemaque said. My kids were going to school. But now things are upside down.

Telemaque said if the police are going to arrest Duvalier theyll have to arrest the whole country.

(Soundbite of sirens and protestors)

BEAUBIEN: The police didnt formally arrest Baby Doc Duvalier. Instead, he was bundled into a convoy of police vehicles and brought before a judge for questioning. Prosecutors yesterday filed criminal charges with the court, accusing Duvalier of stealing millions of dollars during his 15 years in power. The judge took away Duvaliers passport and will later decide whether to have him formally arrested.

Duvaliers return to Haiti has thrust one more crisis on a country already grappling with last years earthquake, a cholera epidemic, and a disputed presidential election.

Backers of Duvalier blocked streets in Port-au-Prince with rubble, to try to stop the police from delivering Baby Doc to the court.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. is concerned that Duvaliers return comes at a bad time.

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Spokesman, State Department): If I look at the list of challenges that Haiti faces today, having a former dictator return to Haiti just adds to Haiti's ongoing burden.

BEAUBIEN: This is the first time Duvalier has been back in Haiti in 25 years. Amnesty International praised the governments action against him, but said in a statement, that Duvalier should be charged with more than just financial crimes. They said he should be held responsible for the torture, killing and kidnapping carried out by his regime.

Evans Paul was a journalist during Baby Docs reign. Paul recounts how he was beaten by Duvaliers Tonton Macouts, after interviewing a prominent dissident in exile.

Mr. EVANS PAUL (Journalist): (Through Translator) They listened to all my tapes and they beat me. What was hard is not just because they had beaten me, they asked me to count every time I got beaten. I counted about 80 hits.

BEAUBIEN: Paul says Baby Doc Duvalier continued the reign of terror started by his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Paul says there was no freedom of speech. When he and other opponents of the Duvaliers wanted to meet, he says theyd hold a soccer game and talk while running up the field.

Paul says he never saw his father who abducted and disappeared by the regime. He says they never even had a funeral for his dad.

Mr. PAUL: (Through Translator) We always hoped one day he would come back. Because sometimes the regime would put somebody in jail, in prison for five, 10, 12 years and then, all of a sudden, the person comes back home.

BEAUBIEN: He says Haitians couldnt publicly mourn the victims of the Duvalier regime, nor was there anywhere where they could seek justice.

Paul says he was stunned to hear that Baby Doc had returned from exile but adds that hes not looking for revenge.

Mr. PAUL: (Through Translator) I want a justice with reconciliation, for Jean Claude to recognize his fault without him be jailed.

BEAUBIEN: Paul even views Baby Docs return as an opportunity. He says young Haitians need to learn about the Duvaliers time in power so that, in his words, such a regime never returns.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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