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9148: Haiti-Coup Anniversary (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL NORTON
GONAIVES, Sept 29 (AP) -- President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marked the
10th anniversary of the coup that forced him into exile by calling it an
act of "terrorism" and urging the United States to extradite a paramilitary
leader accused of involvement in the bloodshed that followed.
Speaking to a crowd of thousands that filled Independence Square in the
western city Gonaives on Saturday, Aristide said that after years of
requests, the United States has turned over documents seized by U.S. forces
in 1994 that detail paramilitary involvement in the 1991 coup.
Aristide urged the United States to extradite Emmanuel "Toto" Constant,
who lives in exile in New York. He was tried in absentia for allegedly
helping to mastermind a 1994 massacre and was sentenced to life in prison
"The United States is a victim of terrorism. We too are victims of
terrorism," Aristide told the crowd. "Everybody who is hungry, poor and
suffering now because of the coup is a victim of army terrorism."
Sen. Gerald Gilles of Aristide's Lavalas Family party said the
government obtained the documents in March. He likened Haiti's desire to
see Constant in jail to the U.S. search for Osama bin Laden, the prime
suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
"The United States wants bin Laden. We want Toto Constant," he said.
Constant led the right-wing Front for the Advancement and Progress of
Haiti, or FRAPH, which allegedly led a reign of terror to break the spirit
of Aristide supporters after the coup.
Haiti's government has said the seized documents involving FRAPH include
photographs of victims and could contain evidence of U.S. intelligence
connections to Constant's group.
If Constant were returned to Haiti, the law would require a new trial.
Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, was in power
only eight months before the army ousted him in a coup on Sept. 30, 1991.
He fled to the United States, and in the next three years soldiers and
paramilitary forces killed between 3,000 and 5,000 people.
U.S. troops restored Aristide to power in 1994. He disbanded the army
and later stepped down in 1996 as required by the constitution. Aristide
was elected last year to another five-year term in a vote boycotted by the
Since his inauguration in February, Aristide had been in a standoff with
the opposition over disputed local and legislative elections last year.
Foreign donors have suspended some $500 million in aid until a consensus is
reached and some of the election results are revised.
In his speech, Aristide also said he would work to improve education,
literacy and health services in the desperately poor Caribbean country.
Some in the crowd responded by waving blue-and-red Haitian flags.