Duvalier in custody after surprise return to Haiti: Update

Former Haitian dictator has been escorted out of his hotel by police as supporters (for the most part “people over 50,”  as one twitterer described them) gathered outside of the Karibe Hotel in Petionville. The removal follows a couple of hours of questioning by police and prosecutors allegedly discussing accusations of widespread theft and corruption from state funds while he was president for life. BBC, USA Today, the Associated Press, the Miami Herald, and CNN are all reporting via Twitter on his having been taken into custody as his supporters scream angrily outside of the hotel.

Duvalier was described by Jacquie Charles through Twitter as coming out of the hotel with his wife by his side, wearing  no handcuffs,and  smiling to the crowd gathered outside as he was guided out by the police. Duvalier, CNN reports, also via Twitter, was placed in a van and transported to a courthouse where a hearing will determine whether he will be placed under arrest.

The New York Time has filed the following report:

Haitian police officers on Tuesday took away Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator who abruptly returned to this country nearly 25 years after being forced from power, leading him out of the high-end hotel where he has been huddled since his arrival.

Surrounded by heavily armed police officers, Mr. Duvalier emerged from his room at noon in a blue pin-striped suit and walked down three flights of stairs, never letting go of his girlfriend’s hand as he waved to as supporters chanting his name and calling him “president.”

“We are with you,” some supporters shouted as police officers led Mr. Duvalier out of the back of the hotel. With United Nations peacekeepers standing by, police officers put him and several of his associates into a waiting vehicle and drove off. Small clusters of his supporters outside the hotel cried “revolution.” Hunks of concrete were thrown into the convoy’s path.

The police did not indicate whether Mr. Duvalier was being arrested for the many human rights abuses committed during his rule, or for the hundreds of millions of dollars the government says he looted from the treasury. One of Mr. Duvalier’s lawyers at the hotel argued that Mr. Duvalier was merely being brought to a meeting with prosecutors for questioning.

In a country with a long history of impunity, where leaders rarely face prosecution, it was a striking scene, underscoring the political volatility that has gripped Haiti since a contested presidential election late last year.

One year after the nation was hit by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, the country has been grappling to absorb the potentially destabilizing blow of Mr. Duvalier’s surprise return this week, which drew condemnations from around the world and ignited new fears of conflict.

You can find the rest of the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/world/americas/19haiti.html?src=twrhp

Photo by Ramon Espinosa for the Associated Press.

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