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Judge says arrest warrant against former Haitian president still stands
Published on August 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- A Haitian judge , conducting a criminal inquiry into acts of corruption blamed on Haiti's former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said on Tuesday that he was still waiting for the police to bring Aristide before him by will or by force, in compliance with an arrest warrant issued last week.

Investigating judge Lamarre Belizaire
Judge Lamarre Bélizaire rejected claims that the arrest warrant issued for Aristide would no longer hold since a motion seeking his recusal as investigating magistrate has been filed by the ex-president's lawyers.

"I issued an arrest warrant for Mr Aristide and I don't know what takes the police so long to bring him before me, because they know where he is," Belizaire told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) on Tuesday.

"I heard rumours that I had waived the arrest warrant. I want to say that it is absolutely false," stated Belizaire.

"The warrant still holds and I am still the judge in charge of the inquiry and nothing has changed in that regard," he said.

The investigating judge said he will continue to carry out his work in conformity with existing laws, without any form of abuse.

"I don't have any particular problem with anybody. I am a judge and I am only doing what the law requires me to do and that is all I can say for now," Belizaire told HCNN.

Aristide and over 30 of his current and former allies have been banned from leaving the country after being accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds and laundering drug money, between 2001 and 2004, during Aristide's presidency.

Aristide's lawyers claim the judge no longer has the authority to proceed in the case regarding acts of corruption blamed on the former leader, and dozens of his allies, now that he has been challenged.

However, other lawyers say the contrary.

Several well-known Haitian law experts agree that the arrest warrant issued against Aristide still holds, even though he has filed a motion to challenge judge Belizaire.

Lawyers who have no particular interest in the case said relevant laws do not provide that an investigating judge should stop all proceedings, once he has been challenged by a party who is subject to his jurisdiction.

"Even though there is a request for recusal, the judge will continue his investigation until the supreme court, which has the authority to solve such issues, actually makes a decision as to disqualify the judge or reject the request for recusal," law professor Osner Fevry told HCNN on Tuesday.

"The police still have the obligation to enforce the arrest warrant (against Aristide) issued by judge Belizaire," said Fevry.

Other lawyers, such as Patrick Laurent and Annibal Coffy, made similar comments and argued that prosecution would have been nearly impossible should an investigating judge be forced to stop proceedings once a motion for recusal filed by a suspect targeted in a criminal investigation.

"There is absolutely no legislation that says that the judge should stop all proceedings, once he has been challenged by a suspect during an investigation," Coffy told HCNN.

"And law enforcement authorities still have to enforce warrants issued by such judge," he said.

"It would have been too easy for criminals who would want to get away with crimes," he said.

"Once you know the judge is going to arrest you, you would file a request for recusal and the judge would have to stop all proceedings and you would be able to continue to go free and possibly flee the country, etc." said Coffy, a respected veteran lawyer.

"If this was to be true, you would have been better that they shut down the judicial system, because it would be quasi impossible for a judge to conduct any criminal investigation," said Coffy.

The lawyers for the former leader denounced what they call political persecutions, but spokesmen for President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe rejected the allegations, arguing that the government has no particular role in the proceedings against Aristide that were initiated in 2005.
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