The party, after boycotting past elections, has said that it plans to participate in the upcoming senatorial and local elections, and some speculate that after shying away from the public, Aristide may be ready to reengage politically. That engagement would come as Martelly, a nemesis and former musician, prepares to mark two years in office on May 14, and continues to struggle to have Haiti break with the past as demonstrated by the large turnout in favor of his political rival.
The Martelly administration did not comment on the latest developments. The day before, Police Chief Godson Orelus announced a ban on protests. The announcement triggered tensions in the capital where police patrolled several slums where sympathizers had set up barricades and began burning tires. That evening, hundreds stood vigil outside Aristide’s home in Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, according to local journalists. The supporters called it a night of solidarity with the ex-president, who fled Haiti into exile in 2004 amid a bloody coup.
On Wednesday, hundreds including opposition lawmakers accompanied Aristide as he arrived at the downtown courthouse at 8:15 a.m. He stepped out of his vehicle minutes before 9 a.m. and walked into the judge’s chambers as a heavy police presence stood outside.
By the time Aristide emerged three hours later, the crowd had grown to several thousands in Port-au-Prince and supporters also had taken to the streets in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest before his 1990 presidential bid, did not speak to journalists.
Earlier, his team had announced a news conference and corralled waiting journalists into a sauna-like courtroom. But the move turned out to be a diversion to allow the ex-leader to leave without making a statement about his secret testimony to Dabresil, who has summoned a long list of persons including former President René Préval who testified last month.
Préval, a close friend of Dominique’s who reopened the case during his 2006-2011 presidency, spent about four hours inside the judge’s chambers. Afterward, he told The Miami Herald it was only natural for the judge to call him, given his close relationship with the activist.
He was the second former Haitian president to appear in court in weeks.
In February, former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier answered questions about his dictatorial past as part of an appeals hearing. He’s fighting to avoid standing trial on corruption charges, and dozens of alleged victims of his regime also want the court to try him on human rights abuses. The appearance came after Duvalier had repeatedly refused to show up.
Like Aristide, Duvalier also returned to Haiti in 2011, after 25 years in exile in France — marking the first time in Haiti’s history that all of its living presidents are on the same island.