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Prosecutor questions former Haitian President Aristide

MYT 5:40:01 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - A prosecutor questioned former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Wednesday over accusations he used homeless children to elicit donations that were later used to help fund his political career.

Haiti's former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaks during a news conference following his arrival at the international airport in Port-au- Prince March 18, 2011. REUTERS/Kena Betancur
Haiti's former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide speaks during a news conference following his arrival at the international airport in Port-au- Prince March 18, 2011. REUTERS/Kena Betancur

Aristide, who has not been charged with a crime, answered questions from prosecutor Lucmane Delille at his home on the outskirts of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

Ahead of the questioning, hundreds of Aristide supporters gathered outside a courthouse in a show of support for the ex-leader. Some criticized the investigation as politically motivated.

A small group of people have filed a complaint against Aristide alleging they are former street children who were rescued by Fanmi se Lavi, an organization Aristide created in the late 1980s to house and educate homeless orphans. They claim they were physically abused and used to raise money.

Neither Aristide or his lawyer, Mario Joseph, have publicly commented on the accusations.

Under Haiti's judicial system, once a prosecutor has completed the questioning, the case will either be dismissed or assigned to a judge who will decide whether to file any formal charges.

"We heard the other party and today we heard him," Delille told reporters. "If one citizen brings a complaint against another citizen, they must be heard. The former president understood that and he was in agreement."

A former Roman Catholic priest still popular among poor Haitians, Aristide became president of the impoverished Caribbean country in 1991 but was later ousted in a military coup.

He was elected again in 2000, but driven from power four years later in a rebellion led by former soldiers. Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011 after seven years in exile in South Africa.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Stacey Joyce)

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