PORT-AU-PRINCE: Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been placed under house arrest as a judge continues to investigate allegations of criminal activities involving the former leader and his allies.
As a result of the ruling issued by Judge Lamarre Bélizaire, the residence of the former president, in the district of Tabarre, is being guarded by agents of the prison administration, known as APENA, while the perimeter of the residence will be guarded by agents of the Central Department of the Judicial Police (DCPJ).
“We order those responsible for the Prison Administration to take all necessary measures to secure the residence where the accused is found and to bring him before us, when required, in order to be interrogated on acts of money laundering and illicit drug trafficking blamed on him,” said Justice Bélizaire. “We order consequently, officials of the Central Department of the Judicial Police to secure the perimeter of the above-mentioned house. For these reasons, (we) say and declare that the named Jean-Bertrand Aristide is under house arrest.”
Bélizaire also ruled that he could now authorize anyone to visit Aristide at his residence.
Last week, the head of the police service in Haiti appeared before the judge to answer why law enforcement officials had not arrested Aristide, despite an arrest warrant being issued.
Police Chief Godson Orelus later confirmed the police were in possession of several arrest warrants, but would not elaborate.
Aristide and several of his former colleagues have been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the State through his organization, Aristide for Democracy Foundation and other organizations from 2001 to 2004.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, and his colleagues, including Mirlande Liberus, Yvon Neptune, Jean Nesty Lucien and Gustave Faubert, have also been barred from leaving the country.
Lawyers representing Aristide have filed a motion seeking to have Bélizaire removed on the grounds of bias.
But despite the motion, Bélizaire said he had not revoked the warrant for Aristide’s arrest.
Aristide’s lawyers argue that the judge is now obligated to stop all proceedings in the case regarding serious acts of corruption blamed on the former leader. However, legal observers say the arrest warrant against Aristide is still valid and that Bélizaire may proceed with the criminal inquiry while relevant judicial authorities examine the request for recusal.
The judge said that Article 77 of the Criminal Investigating Code made provisions for Aristide’s arrest and that in order to conduct a proper investigation he must ensure the constant presence of the accused and must take “all conservatory measures in this regard”.