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"Baby Doc" Duvalier Questioned, May Face Trial

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Prosecutors in Haiti accused former President Jean-Claude Duvalier of corruption and embezzlement two days after his return from exile.

Duvalier was detained Tuesday and questioned by a judge. Then the former dictator known as “Baby Doc” was released while the judge considers whether he will be formally arrested.

More than a dozen heavily armed Haitian police in riot gear took Duvalier to the court, escorting him from his room at the Karibe Hotel. As he descended the stairs of the hotel, he waved to several dozen of his supporters below.

Baurice Telemaque was holding a flyer with a photo of Duvalier that said “Welcome Home” in Creole.

“When he was president, I used to be able to live. I was working,” Telemaque said. “My kids were going to school. But now things are upside down.”

Telemaque said if the police are going to arrest Duvalier, they’ll have to arrest the whole country.

Backers of Duvalier blocked streets in Port au Prince with rubble in an unsuccessful attempt to stop police from delivering him to the court.

The judge took away his passport and will decide whether to have him formally arrested. Prosecutors have filed criminal charges that say Duvalier stole millions of dollars from Haiti during his 15 years in power.

Duvalier’s sudden return after 25 years in exile has thrust one more crisis on a country already grappling with last year’s earthquake, a cholera epidemic and a disputed presidential election.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Tuesday the US is concerned about the timing of Duvalier’s return.

“If I look at the list of challenges that Haiti faces today, having a former dictator return to Haiti just adds to Haiti’s ongoing burden,” said Crowley.

Amnesty International praised the government’s action but said in a statement that Duvalier should be charged with more than just financial crimes. It said he should be held responsible for the torture, killing and kidnapping carried out by his regime.

Evans Paul was a journalist during Baby Doc’s reign. Paul recounts how he was beaten by Duvalier’s Tonton Macouts, after interviewing a prominent dissident in exile.

“They listened to all my tapes and they beat me,” he says. “They asked me to count every time I got beat. I counted about 80 hits.”

Paul says Duvalier continued the reign of terror started by his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Paul says there was no freedom of speech. When he and other opponents of the Duvaliers wanted to meet, he says, they’d hold a soccer game and talk while running up the field.

Paul says his father was abducted and disappeared by the regime, and the family never had a funeral for his dad.

“We always hoped one day he’d come back,” he says, “because sometimes the regime puts someone in jail for five, 10, 12 years and then all of a sudden, the person comes home.”

He says Haitians couldn’t publicly mourn the victims of the Duvalier regime, nor was there anywhere they could seek justice.

Paul says he was stunned to hear that Duvalier had returned from exile, but adds that he’s not looking for revenge.

“I want a justice with reconciliation, for John-Claude to recognize his fault without him being jailed,” he says.

Paul even views the return of “Baby Doc” as an opportunity. He says young Haitians need to learn about the Duvaliers’ time in power so that, in his words, “such a regime never returns.” Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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