November 1, 2002

Antigua girl sues prime minister for alleged assault

Bird says he has never met his accuser

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) --A teenage girl who gave a videotaped interview accusing
Prime Minister Lester Bird of having sex with her filed a lawsuit Thursday charging
the island's leader with statutory rape, abduction, conspiracy and sexual assault.

Bird, who was cleared last week by a government-ordered investigation on the
basis of lack of evidence, is being sued along with his younger brother, Ivor
Bird, said Beverly Percival, a secretary in the prime minister's office.

Monique Kim Barua, who was 12 at the time of the alleged incidents, charges
in her lawsuit that the prime minister sexually assaulted her between June 2000
and July 2001 in the northeast village of Parham, according to the suit.

Bird said he rejected the lawsuit's claims, saying again that he had never met the

"I'm not surprised. I'm not worried," Bird said, adding that the charges "cannot
be sustained."

Barua, who is now 15, filed the suit jointly with her mother, Jacqueline
Fiedtkou, in the High Court of Justice of Antigua and Barbuda. No hearing date
has been set.

The girl's whereabouts, however, were unknown. Last week's report said she
left Antigua earlier this year. She was not interviewed in the investigation.

Thursday's lawsuit also claims Barua was "victimized" by Bird and "corrupted
into immortal and illegal conduct and behavior and has lost a fair opportunity to
develop as a normal adolescent."

Charlesworth Brown, one of the lawyers for Barua and her mother, declined to
give details about the charges, saying "the action was filed and I've no other
comment to make."

Barua first made her allegations in a four-hour videotaped interview made
public in May. The video has since been copied and circulated throughout the

The girl -- who said she holds a Guyanese passport and was born in Suriname
on May 15, 1987 -- claimed in the interview that she met Bird and his younger
brother, Ivor Bird, at a party in 1999 and had a sexual relationship first with
Ivor Bird and then with the prime minister.

She also alleged she made payments for cocaine deals on behalf of the prime
minister, his brother, and governing party Sen. Asot Michael. Bird has denied
involvement, and last week's investigation report said there was no evidence
against him or Michael.

The report said, however, that Ivor Bird "was having an inappropriate
relationship" with the girl.

Bird has since filed a defamation lawsuit against Barua, the journalists who
conducted the interview, and the Observer Media group that produced the

"I don't even know the girl," Bird said Thursday. "It is an attempt to keep the
accusations alive. I welcome her to come to Antigua so we can serve our writ
on her."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.