PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide rallied outside his home Saturday after a new unit of police officers was abruptly posted outside the walled compound in the capital amid fears that the ex-leader faces arrest for failing to heed a court summons.
The officers, about 14 in all, are members of a special unit and have been assigned to monitor Aristide, police spokesman Frantz Lerebours told The Associated Press. He said there were no immediate plans to carry out an arrest warrant issued by a judge investigating a corruption case.
The judge issued the warrant last month after Aristide did not show up in court to testify in an investigation into money laundering and corruption during his presidency. The former president's lawyer has said the summons was not properly issued and asked the judge to reconsider the arrest warrant.
Lerebours said the judge asked police to place Aristide under house arrest but there is no provision for house arrest under Haitian law. He said officers would instead monitor Aristide, who has rarely left his home since returning from exile in 2011. The spokesman said the new officers were brought in because they were better equipped and trained to conduct the monitoring than officers previously assigned to the task.
About 200 supporters gathered outside the gates soon after the arrival of the new officers. They played drums and sang songs of support for Aristide, who remains popular in Haiti. Radio reports said there were demonstrations in other parts of the city as well.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who championed the poor and led the opposition to a brutal dictatorship, was Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990. He was toppled in a coup, then returned to power with U.S. assistance, but he was ousted again in 2004 during a violent rebellion.