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Lawyer: 'Baby Doc' Duvalier plans to stay in Haiti

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Attorney: Duvalier to stay in Haiti
  • NEW: Duvalier waves to supporters waiting outside his hotel
  • The former dictator would fight formal charges and could return to politics, the lawyer says
  • Duvalier has been accused of financial wrongdoing and human rights abuses
  • A judge must now decide whether there is merit in the accusations

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Though he faces charges of financial wrongdoing and possibly human rights abuses, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has no plans to leave his homeland, one of his lawyers said Wednesday.

Attorney Reynold Georges told CNN that Duvalier would fight any charges against him and could very well get back into politics.

"You can bet your life on it," Georges said, referring to Duvalier's intention to remain in Haiti, adding that Duvalier is looking into renovating one of his old homes.

Duvalier made a brief appearance Wednesday, stepping out onto a balcony of the Karibe Hotel and waving to dozens of supporters. "I will see you later," he said.

Henri Sterlin, a Duvalier associate, said Duvalier planned to make a longer address later Wednesday or Thursday.

Recalling abuses of Duvalier regime
Behind the scenes of 'Baby Doc' story

Heavily armed police escorted Duvalier on Tuesday from the suburban hotel to a downtown court, where he was questioned for hours. The strongman is facing charges related to the embezzlement of Haitian money for personal gain during his 15-year rule, a government source told CNN.

A judge has 30 days to investigate and decide whether the accusations merit moving forward with a case against Duvalier.

But Georges said no firm evidence was presented in court. "Blah, blah, blah," Georges said of the accusations.

"We have nothing to hide and we are not afraid of nobody, nothing," he said, adding that the judge asked Duvalier when he was planning to leave. "If he wants to live in this country, that's his right," Georges said. "He is back to stay. He can do politics. He can come and go, do whatever he pleases as long as it is legal."

The Duvalier family ruled Haiti for three decades starting in 1957, when Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier was elected president. He later declared himself president for life. When he died in 1971, he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son, who went by the nickname of Baby Doc.

Ousted from power after a popular rebellion in 1986, Baby Doc shocked the world by returning to Haiti on Sunday night after some 25 years of exile in France.

Human rights groups have demanded justice for a rule of brutality. During his years in power, thousands were tortured and killed and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile, according to Human Rights Watch.

We have nothing to hide and we are not afraid of nobody, nothing.
--Attorney Reynold Georges

The United Nations said Tuesday that Duvalier's presence in Haiti had taken the global body by surprise and it "clearly raises issues of impunity and accountability." Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said a range of human rights abuses and corruption issues surround Duvalier.

It's still unclear why Duvalier decided to go back to Haiti but his presence certainly added to a bubbling cauldron of political turmoil sparked by a presidential election mired in controversy.

"Obviously this is an important and crucial time for the people of Haiti," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"Any political leader or any former political leader should focus not only on him or herself, but on making progress towards a set of important elections," Gibbs said, adding that such people should dedicate "their time and their energy toward the reconstruction of the country."

Preliminary results of the November 28 election placed former first lady Mirlande Manigat in a runoff with Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by Haiti's unpopular President Rene Preval. However, international monitors charged fraud and a subsequent election review put Celestin in third place. Observers suggested he be eliminated from contention.

Preval's government has not officially commented on Duvalier's return, though some Haitians, craving a father figure to lead the nation out of crisis, have commented favorably on the days of Duvalierism.

But Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor of the New York-based Haitian Times, blamed the father-son Duvalier dynasty for a nation struggling to regain footing. He said the scars still run deep from an era when no one trusted each other.

Pierre-Pierre said he hopes justice will finally prevail.

"If there is a bright spot," he said, "finally we have to face that decision that we have never faced straight up. We've been in denial about what happened during the 29-year reign of dictatorship of the Duvaliers."

CNN's John Zarrella, Lonzo Cook, Kim Segal, Mary Snow and Moni Basu contributed to this report.