PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide yesterday won a delay until next week in a court hearing to address accusations he exploited former street children for political gain.
Aristide, who did not appear in court, has not been charged with a crime and a judge will ultimately decide whether any charges should be filed. His lawyer successfully argued that the hearing should be delayed to next Wednesday because the court summons was served improperly.
Police used tear gas to avert a confrontation between pro- and anti-Aristide demonstrators outside the courthouse.
A complaint against Aristide was filed by a small group of people who said they were former street children rescued by Fanmi se Lavi, an organization Aristide created in the late 1980s to house and educate such children. They said they were physically abused and were used to raise donations to further Aristide’s political career. About a dozen people saying they were former street children protested outside the courthouse yesterday. “I was 6 when Aristide took me from my mother’s house,” said Sony Telusma, 32. “With the other children from Fanmi se Lavi, he was using me as a puppet, making us play in front of foreigners in order to raise money for his own political interest.”