May 26, 2001

Former Haiti President Prosper Avril arrested

                 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Former Haitian President Prosper
                 Avril was arrested on Saturday on charges of plotting against the state,
                 family members said.

                 Avril, who was president of the impoverished Caribbean nation from 1988 to
                 1990, was seized by police at a restaurant in Petion-Ville, a suburb of the
                 capital, Port-au-Prince, as he signed copies of his new book about Haitian crime
                 victims, "The Black Book of Insecurity," his daughter said.

                 "He started signing books and about six people in black came in -- I think they
                 were from the SWAT team, they came in with a paper -- and handcuffed him,"
                 Avril's daughter, Carine Avril-Cineas, told Reuters. "Thirty minutes after
                 that, we learned that he was in the commissionaire (police station) in Petion-Ville."

                 She said she later received a telephone call from her father, saying he had been
                 arrested on charges of "plotting against the state."

                 Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said he was not aware of Avril's arrest.

                 It was the second arrest in the past week of a politician outside President
                 Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party.

                 Last Monday, a political ally of the opposition, Gabriel Fortune, was detained
                 and later charged with a murder attempt after gunfire injured four people at a
                 meeting in Les Cayes, a seaside city about 120 miles (200 km) southwest of the

                 Avril, a general and former bodyguard of dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc"
                 Duvalier, seized power in September 1988, toppling his former ally Henri
                 Namphy. Avril declared himself president to "save the country from anarchy
                 and chaos," and named a civilian Cabinet he said would be a transition to
                 democratic rule. He fell from power in March 1990.

                 Avril, who his daughter said had spent recent years writing books, appeared at
                 an April 19 meeting organized by opposition leaders. The meeting, also attended
                 by business leaders and other former government officials, sought to discuss
                 how Haiti's political impasse could be resolved.

                 A dispute over a tainted legislative election in May 2000 has caused the
                 suspension of more than $500 million in foreign aid to Haiti, the Western
                 Hemisphere's poorest country. The Organization of American States, which
                 monitored the election, said 10 Senate seats should have been decided in a
                 runoff because no candidate won an outright victory.

                 Aristide and the opposition bloc, Democratic Convergence, which has formed a
                 symbolic government to contest the president's legitimacy, have agreed to meet
                 to resolve the stalemate, although no date has been set.

                 Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who swept to power in 1991 with the
                 backing of a national grass-roots movement, was toppled by a military coup
                 seven months into his term. He was restored to power three years later by a
                 U.S.-led invasion.

                 Aristide relinquished power constitutionally in 1996 and was succeeded by his
                 protege, Rene Preval. Aristide was elected president again last year.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.