PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier defied a judge's order Thursday and refused to attend a hearing to determine whether he will again face charges for human rights abuses committed during the nearly 15 years of his brutal regime.
Duvalier defense attorney Reynold Georges showed up 90 minutes after the hearing was scheduled to start and announced that he had filed an appeal of the judge's order. The session then began in a courtroom crowded with reporters and observers.
Georges, a brash former senator, said he was confident that the Supreme Court would not only overturn the order to compel Duvalier's presence in court but also block the effort by victims of the Duvalier regime from getting the court to reinstate the charges.
"We're waiting for the Supreme Court decision and we're going to win," Georges said. "I don't lose. I'm Haiti's Johnnie Cochran."
Attorneys for people who filed complaints alleging they were tortured by agents of Duvalier's regime urged the judge to go forward with the case and to arrest the former leader for not showing up in court.
Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun said Duvalier had no grounds to appeal to the Supreme Court at this stage and he ordered the prosecutor to bring the former leader to court "without delay." It was not immediately clear whether there would be any penalties for not complying with the order.
Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1971-1986, a time when thousands were imprisoned, tortured and killed for opposing the government. He was ousted in a popular revolt and forced into exile in France.
He made a surprise return to Haiti in January 2011 and was promptly charged with embezzlement and human rights abuses. A court threw out all but the embezzlement charge, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Duvalier, who lives in a villa in the hills above the Haitian capital, skipped two previous court hearings without penalty.