Baby Doc surfaces on TV to protest his innocence

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The Independent Online
THE FORMER Haitian dictator, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, virtually a missing person for three years, has surfaced on French television, where he rejected all possibility of his extradition from France.

"I have no blood on my hands and I have a clear conscience. You can't compare General Pinochet with the Duvaliers," said Baby Doc, 47, who succeeded his father, Papa Doc, as Haitian dictator for 15 repressive and kleptocratic years from 1971.

The Haitian authorities said earlier this month that they had started legal moves against Jean-Claude Duvalier and hoped to bring him home to face trial. The French government said two weeks ago that it would "not be hostile" to the arrest of Baby Doc, who has lived in France in steadily declining circumstances since he fled Haiti in 1986.

Duvalier told the French all-news channel, LCI, that he "honestly" supported the moves to extradite and try General Augusto Pinochet. But he dismissed suggestions that his own regime had been as brutal as Pinochet's in Chile.

"I do not believe there was a lot of violence during my time ... There was some abuse, some violence perhaps but all of this was put right... I am not the subject of any judicial proceedings in Haiti and, to my knowledge, no complaints have been lodged against me in France."

Baby Doc Duvalier fled anti-government riots in Haiti in February 1986, pausing only to dig up his father's remains and - it is alleged - remove several hundred million dollars in cash from the central bank. In recent years, his gilded exile has become increasingly lonely and less and less gilded. At first he lived in regal style with his wife, two children and mother at a villa in Vallauris, near Cannes, rented for pounds 80,000 a year. In 1990 his wife, Michele, having spent much of the money, left him for a local businessman. When they divorced in 1991, Michele won custody of the children and most of the remaining cash.

Baby Doc clung on at the villa, with his mother, until 1994. After failing to pay the rent, he was forced into a nearby bungalow. A cloud of other unpaid bills forced him to leave the Riviera the following year; since then he has been reported to be in the Paris area, staying with, and living off, a series of Haitian friends.

His last known address was in Saint-Cloud, in the western suburbs of Paris, where his mother, Mama Doc, died on 26 December last year.

Although the French interior ministry says Baby Doc is living in France without a residence permit, no attempt has been made to expel him since 1987.

In his interview, the ex- dictator claimed to have "an exceptional right" of exile, "implicitly" awarded by the French court, which had rejected efforts to eject him 11 years ago.