After Keeping a Low Profile, Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Testifies in Court in Port-au-Prince

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide testified in court today in Port-au-Prince. He was questioned in connection to the murder of prominent radio journalist Jean Dominique. Dominique had been a critic of Aristide before the journalist was assassinated in 2000, but many other prominent political figures have also been questioned in the case and to this day there are still no solid leads on who may have planned the assassination. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected twice to the presidency of Haiti and twice he was ousted by a coup. He lived in exile in South Africa before returning to Haiti two years ago. Since then he�s kept a low profile, so today's court appearance was a big deal in Haiti. Reporter Susana Ferreira was at the courthouse earlier today.

Susana Ferreira: Inside the courthouse it was packed with local journalists and some international journalists waiting all day to try and catch a glimpse of him.This is the very first time Aristide has been seen in public since he arrived just over two years ago, so historically it's an important day in that regard. He was accompanied by an enormous numbers of supporters, there were several thousand, but people were also hoping I think that former president Aristide would have a few words to say because he has remained largely silent since he's been back.

Werman: Why is Aristide being questioned about the murder of journalist Jean Dominique back in 2000? And did he have any information to share about it in court today?

Ferreira: The exact line of questioning is something I'm not aware of. His lawyers have not spoken to the press since. They would not even hint at what kind of questions he might be asked before they went in. So we'll have to wait and see what they say once they're ready to speak to the press and share that information. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was questioned as was former president RenÃ? © PrÃ? ©val. He was questioned earlier this year. And a number of other high-profile people have been questioned already in this case.

Werman: Why is so much being made of the death of Jean Dominique? And why are there really no clues to his murder more than 12 years ago?

Ferreira: I've been told that the case, when the investigation finally did open up, it dragged on, it was delayed, there were a number of rumors that [??] might have been behind it. I know some arrests were made of the shooter or at least one of the shooters, but it was never determined who ordered the killing of Jean Dominique. He was a very outspoken journalist. He did have a fair number of enemies, but until today it's one of Haiti's unsolved crimes and it is a very political crime as well.

Werman: Jean-Bertrand Aristide evoked so much of Haiti for so many American, a certain period too of recent Haitian history that for a brief spell seemed more hopeful than other chapters of Haitian history. What was it like for Haitians today to see Aristide, to see him waving to the crowds?

Ferreira: Oh, people who were in front of the courthouse you understand were people who were already supporters. I rushed out after he got into his vehicle and you could just hear cheers erupting. I was told by other colleagues that he actually stuck his head out of the car door and waved to people. And this is the first time they've seen this man in the flesh in many years. For those who were able to see him when he first arrived it's been two years, but for other people who haven't seen him since he was exiled nine years ago at this point this was a very emotionally-charged moment for them. People carry photos of Aristide around with them. Many people have photos of Aristide in their homes and during protests they bring framed portraits of him, they have banners with his face on him, so too be able to see him in the flesh I think was quite emotional for them. And in recent weeks there has been talk that he's actively trying to be part of his [??] and elections that were meant to have taken place in late 2011 are scheduled to take place later this year and there's already some talk of whether of not his party will be able to participate as they've been excluded from past elections for various reasons. So for those who are watching it might seem like there is perhaps no coincidence in that his major appearance comes at a time when important elections are being planned

Werman: Reporter Susana Ferreira speaking with us from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Thanks for your time, Susana.

Ferreira: Thank you.