October 19, 2000

Haitian police accused of coup plot arrested in Dominican Republic

                  SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- Six Haitian police
                  officers accused of plotting to assassinate the country's top leaders and
                  stage a coup were arrested as they crossed the border to the Dominican
                  Republic, Dominican and Haitian officials said.

                  Wednesday night's announcement comes a day after Haiti's Premier
                  Jacques-Edouard Alexis said the government was beginning an
                  investigation into unidentified police officers allegedly plotting to destabilize the
                  impoverished, restive country two weeks before presidential elections.

                  The situation in Haiti is extremely tense ahead of elections planned for Nov. 26
                  that are expected to return to power Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the controversial
                  ex-president. Major opposition parties plan to boycott the vote.

                  Miguel Soto, secretary of the Dominican armed forces, said six Haitians in police
                  uniform were arrested Monday and brought to Santo Domingo, the Dominican
                  capital, for interrogation on Wednesday.

                  "It seems they were implicated in a coup d'etat," Soto told The Associated Press.

                  In Haiti, leading Sen. Gerard Gilles told The Associated Press that the men were
                  planning to assassinate Aristide, his protege and successor President Rene Preval
                  and Alexis, the premier. Gilles is from Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

                  Gilles said the men would be extradited to Haiti on Thursday.

                  Aristide, a former Catholic priest, was Haiti's first freely elected leader and was
                  ousted by a military coup in 1991. Aristide was reinstated by a 1994 U.S.-led
                  invasion of the Caribbean country. He then disbanded Haiti's army and replaced it
                  with a civilian police force.

                  Radio Marien, a private Dominican radio station, quoted one of those arrested,
                  whom it did not identify by name, as saying they were fleeing into Dominican
                  territory from a Haitian mob threatening to kill them.

                  Preval was in Venezuela to sign an oil agreement along with recently installed
                  Dominican President Hipolito Mejia, who told reporters "I don't believe that this
                  is very important. If Preval were worried about it, he would not be here."

                  Haiti's main opposition leader, Gerard Pierre Charles of the Struggling People's
                  Organization, said he believed the "supposed conspiracy" was an attempt to derail
                  talks brokered by the Organization of American States to end the opposition
                  boycott and allow a competitive presidential election.

                  The opposition called the boycott because they charge legislative elections earlier
                  this year were rigged. Pro-Aristide candidates won 80 percent of the seats.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.