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Duvalier is taken to court in Haiti; Faces questioning about corruption

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was hauled into court Tuesday to answer questions as a legal case was opened against him nearly 25 years after he was removed from power in a popular uprising against what was widely regarded as a brutal and corrupt regime.

Defense attorney Gervais Charles said the former Haitian dictator, known as "Baby Doc," faces accusations of corruption and embezzlement in the pilfering of the treasury before his 1986 ouster.

Charles said the case is now in the hands of a judge of instruction, who will decide whether evidence is sufficient to go to trial. That process can take up to three months.

Duvalier spent much of the day in a closed-door court session answering questions.

Haiti's system allows for pretrial detention. But Mona Bernadeau, a Senate candidate from Duvalier's political party, said the former leader was expected to return to his hotel after the court session ended.

Earlier Tuesday, a contingent of police led the former dictator through the hotel and to a waiting SUV. He was not wearing handcuffs. Police did not say if he had been charged with anything.

Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything, ignoring questions from journalists, as he was led away to cheers from some and jeers from others.

The SUV drove in a convoy of police vehicles to a courthouse as dozens of Duvalier supporters tried to block streets with overturned trash bins and rocks to try to prevent the former dictator from going to prison.

Duvalier was removed from the hotel after meeting privately in his room with senior Haitian judicial officials amid calls by human rights groups and others for his arrest.

The country's top prosecutor and a judge were among those meeting with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he has been ensconced since Sunday's surprise return to Haiti.

Duvalier was forced into exile in 1986 in a mass uprising and had been living in exile in France. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others have urged the Haitian government to arrest him for widespread abuses.

Duvalier assumed power in 1971 at age 19 following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. The father and son presided over one of the darkest chapters in Haitian history, a period when a thuggish government secret police force known as the Tonton Macoute tortured and killed opponents.

He returned as Haiti struggles to work through a dire political crisis following the problematic Nov. 28 first-round presidential election, as well as a cholera epidemic and a troubled recovery from an earthquake.

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