PORT-AU-PRINCE: The head of the nation’s police service has appeared before an investigating judge to answer why law enforcement officials have not arrested former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is being investigated on corruption charges.
Police Chief Godson Orelus appeared last week before Judge Lamarre Bélizaire, who is conducting the inquiry into the allegations against Aristide.
“I answered positively to the invitation of the judge because I have great respect for the institutions of the country,” said Orelus, who confirmed the police were in possession of several arrest warrants, but would not elaborate. “We honoured the invitation to answer the questions about things that the judge wanted to know about.”
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 2001-04.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, and his colleagues, including Mirlande Liberus, Yvon Neptune, Jean Nesty Lucien and Gustave Faubert, have also been banned from leaving the country.
Lawyers representing Aristide have filed a motion seeking to have Justice Bélizaire removed on the grounds of bias.
Despite the motion, the judge says he has not revoked the warrant for Aristide’s arrest.
“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,” Bélizaire said last month.
The Dean of Port-Au-Prince first instance court, Raymond Jean-Michel, confirmed that he had received a copy of a motion seeking recusal and disqualification of Bélizaire on the grounds of bias.
Aristide’s lawyers said their client did not receive the summons, which was sent to his residence, but the judge believed he deliberately chose not to appear.
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 the judge may proceed with the criminal inquiry while relevant judicial authorities examine the request for recusal.