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Haiti's Ex-President Under House Arrest

HAITI / 12 SEP 2014 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

A judge in Haiti has placed former President Jean Bertrand-Aristide under house arrest amid an ongoing corruption probe, a case that Aristide's supporters have argued is primarily motivated by politics. 

Earlier this week, a judge placed former Haiti president Jean-Bertrand Aristide under house arrest while authorities investigate allegations of Aristide's involvement in corruption, money laundering, and drug trafficking, as Caribbean360 reported. The investigation stems from claims that Aristide's government and political allies embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars while he was president from 2001 to 2004. Around 30 family members and former officials from Aristide's administration are implicated in the case, reported AFP

In August, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Aristide after he failed to answer a summons to appear in court, in connection to the current investigation. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It is possible that this investigation is more about deflecting attention from current President Michel Martelly's administration, rather than a serious attempt to prosecute Aristide. He has been the subject of two other criminal investigations in the past 20 months, both of which have been accompanied by media fanfare and later dropped.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Haiti

Aristide's lawyers, who have filed a motion against the presiding judge on the grounds of bias, claim the investigation is a way to distract the public from recent scandals such as the mass prison outbreak in August. Legislative elections, which were finally scheduled to be held this October (after having been delayed for three years), were pushed back once again by President Martelly just two days after Aristide was summoned to appear in court

The current investigation may also be a way to discredit the former president and weaken his political capital in the country. Despite keeping a low political profile since his return to Haiti in 2011, Aristide -- who is considered to be a champion of the poor and is a former Roman Catholic priest -- still has a grassroots following in the country and may be seen by some as a political threat.

Aristide was president from 1990 to 1991, 1994 to 1996 and then again from 2001 to 2004. He has been accused of maintaining close ties while in office to a drug trafficking group that smuggled hundreds of tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States. Days after a former confidant told a Miami courtroom in 2004 that Aristide "turned the country into a narco-county," the former president went into exile in South Africa, where he stayed until 2011.   

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