The Miami Herald
December 21, 2001

Ex-soldier confesses role in Haiti coup bid

 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- (AP) -- An ex-soldier admitted Thursday he attacked Haiti's National Palace in a coup attempt, saying fellow conspirators included a former army colonel and two former police chiefs who fled the country after a previous coup plot.

 Former Sgt. Pierre Richardson was captured with a bullet wound in his leg after Monday's assault on the presidential palace, police said. He spoke a day after one of those he implicated, former Col. Guy François, was arrested for allegedly helping to plan the failed coup.

 Police brought Richardson before reporters at a police station where he said 23 or 24 attackers stormed the palace in an attempt to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was unharmed.

 "It was a coup d'état,'' Richardson said. ``The plan was to enter the National Palace.''

 His comments contradicted accusations of opposition leaders who claimed the government staged the attack as a pretext to crack down on dissent. After police retook the palace, Aristide supporters sought revenge by burning offices and homes of opposition leaders.

 Richardson said he attended meetings in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo to plan the attack along with the two former police chiefs, who fled to the Dominican Republic after last year's alleged coup plot.

 They were, he said, former police chief Guy Philippe of the northern city of Cap-Haitien, and former police chief Jean-Jacques Nau of Delmas, just outside Port-au-Prince.

 "Guy Philippe told us that former Col. Guy François would organize a backup for us in Haiti,'' Richardson said. But when the group began the attack, no backup force materialized, he said.

 When François was arrested Wednesday, his car had Dominican license plates, police said.

 Philippe has denied involvement. In October 2000, he sought refuge in the Dominican Republic along with seven others accused of plotting a coup. He later moved to Ecuador, but he flew back to the Dominican Republic two weeks before Monday's assault, Dominican officials said.

 After the attack, he returned to Ecuador, where he was being held by immigration police Thursday while he appealed a government decision to deport him to Panama, the country from which his flight had arrived. Panamana said Thursday that, if Ecuador expels Philippe to Panama, it intends to deport him.

 Haiti asked Ecuador to extradite Philippe on Thursday.

                                    © 2001