by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
On Mar. 20, Haitian police fired on partisans accompanying the vehicle of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after he had responded to the summons of an investigating judge in a money-laundering case against one of his former security chiefs.
Several hundred supporters were escorting the three vehicles returning Aristide, accompanied by his party’s former presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, back to his home in Tabarre, just outside of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
At the bottom of Avenue John Brown (known as Lalue), rocks began to fly, many in the direction of a unit of the Haitian National Police’s Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM), which was observing the march from a distance. There are conflicting reports as to whether Aristide’s partisans initiated or were responding to stone-throwing.
The police began firing many rounds at the demonstrators, also hitting the SUV carrying Aristide.
"The motorcade came under fire, and this is tantamount to an assassination attempt," said Mario Joseph, one of Aristide’s lawyers.
A police bullet passed through the arm of one of Aristide’s partisans, Jackson Noel, who was later treated and filmed at a hospital. A second unidentified person was also reported wounded.
Aristide, 63, was unharmed.
The former president had testified for more than two hours before Judge Jean Wilner Morin as part of an investigation into money-laundering charges against Jean Anthony Nazaire, who used to act as Aristide’s security chief.
Deputy Police Commissioner Jean Alix Pierre-Louis claims the BIM policemen acted in self-defense and that Aristide’s partisans also fired guns. There was "a lot of shooting from different directions," he said.
A widely diffused video of the confrontation, however, clearly shows the police shooting with leveled weapons. There are no images of Aristide’s retinue firing or even carrying weapons.