Lawyer denies ex-rebel leader tied to attack on Haiti police

AP News
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Posted: May 24, 2016 5:45 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The lawyer for a Senate candidate and ex-rebel leader said Tuesday that his client had nothing to do with a deadly attack on a police station in southern Haiti this month.

Attorney Reynold Georges said accusations that former paramilitary Guy Philippe organized the May 16 assault on the Les Cayes police station were baseless and "politically motivated." A prosecutor in the southwest town of Jeremie summoned Philippe to his office Tuesday, but Georges requested 15 more days to prepare for initial questioning.

Georges asserted that interim President Jocelerme Privert's administration is "persecuting" Philippe and other people aligned with former President Michel Martelly's Tet Kale party.

Presidential spokesman Serge Simon declined comment on Georges' assertions, saying Haiti's justice system is still investigating the police station attack.

Speaking from Les Cayes, police Inspector Octave Jean said as many as 50 armed men joined in the attack on the station, during which a number of guns were stolen. The attackers wore camouflage or faded green uniforms that appeared to be from Haiti's disbanded military, he said.

One police officer was killed and one wounded officer is still being treated, Jean said.

Some of the assailants tried to escape in a white van that swerved off a road and tumbled into a ravine, killing three of the attackers. Four men survived the crash and were captured, but Jean said two of them died while undergoing medical treatment.

Jean said two of the captured men told investigators that Philippe was behind the attack.

The attacker killed in a shootout with police at the station has been identified as a 70-year-old ex-soldier. Other captured men were younger and clearly not demobilized soldiers, Jean said.

"These are guys who have been recruited to create trouble," he said, declining to provide any other specifics about the investigation.

Haiti's military was abolished in 1995 under Aristide because of its history of toppling governments and crushing dissent. Small groups of veterans have complained that they are owed money in pensions and lost wages.

Former President Michel Martelly, who left office in February to pave the way for an interim government in the absence of elections, repeatedly pledged to revive the military to protect Haiti's land border, coast and few remaining forests. His preferred successor, Jovenel Moise, also supports that plan.