March 31, 2004

Aristide launches kidnap lawsuit

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has filed a lawsuit against unnamed French and US officials, accusing them of kidnapping him.

Mr Aristide left the country a month ago, as armed rebels were marching on the capital, Port-au-Prince.

He has repeatedly accused the Americans of forcing him into exile. Both the US and France had urged him to stand down.

Washington and Paris say Mr Aristide agreed to leave Haiti and voluntarily signed a letter of resignation.

Mr Aristide initially went to the Central African Republic and is currently in Jamaica.

Defendant X

The suit for "threats, death threats, abduction and illegal detention" was lodged in Paris on Tuesday, Mr Aristide's lawyer, Gilbert Collard said.

It designated the defendant as X - a French legal term for persons unknown.

Mr Collard said Mr Aristide's US lawyers would file an identical suit.

"We have received a mandate from Mr Aristide and the US lawyer taking care of his interests, Mr Ira Kurzban, to lodge a lawsuit against any person who may be held responsible for abduction," Mr Collard said.