By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Supporters of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Thursday rejected alleged acts of corruption blamed on Aristide and several dozen of his former allies between 2001 and 2004, when he occupied the Caribbean country's top political office.
A spokesman for Aristide's Lavalas Family party, Ansyto Felix, said efforts to prosecute the former leader are part of a plan by the current administration to persecute political opponents, on the eve of crucial elections and in the face of popular discontent as to the failure of current leaders to deliver for the population.
"The government of President (Michel) Martelly and Prime Minister (Laurent) Lamothe is doing nothing to solve the problems and meet the needs of the population," Felix told HCNN on Thursday.
"Now that they are talking about elections, they are trying to persecute president Aristide as they plan to intimidate political opponents and try to weaken the Lavalas Family party," stated Felix.
A Haitian judge, Lamarre Bélizaire, leading an inquiry into serious acts of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, laundering of drug money, on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant against Aristide, who failed to comply with a summons to appear before him the same day.
Aristide and at least 34 other current and former members of his entourage have been banned from leaving the country. Five arrest warrants were also issued last week for close allies of the former leader.
Other members of Aristide's party, Gerald Gilles and Maryse Narcisse, claimed that the accusations against Aristide are based on a partisan administrative report on the Aristide administration following its overthrow in February 2004.
The Haitian minister of justice, Jean-Renel Sanon, denied allegations of political persecutions against Aristide and his allies.
"The government has nothing to do with judicial proceedings engaged against former president Aristide," Sanon told HCNN.
"When the case was initiated in 2005, President Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe were not in power and the government played no role in the resumption of the case," Sanon said.
"All decisions regarding the case have been made and will continue to be made by relevant judicial authorities who are beyond our jurisdiction," Sanon explained.
Administrative reports available on the case show that Aristide and his allies allegedly embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars between 2001 and 2004.
"It is ridiculous to talk about political persecutions from the government. I think they should cooperate with judicial authorities in order to clarify the situation," Sanon stated.
"If they show that the figures mentioned in the report are lying, they have a case. But if they cannot prove the contrary, they should not talk about political persecutions," he added.
Several dozens of Aristide supporters gathered on Wednesday outside the residence of the former leader, in the Tabarre district, in a show of support, shortly after the issue of an arrest warrant for Aristide..
"We are here to show our support for Aristide. If they want to arrest Aristide, they should arrest us too," said Jonas Maxime, one of Aristide's supporters.
Aristide may now be arrested any time as the police are obligated by law to enforce the warrant issued by judge Belizaire