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Haitian lawyer accuses Montreal mayor Coderre of lying about Aristide '04 ouster


MONTREAL - A prominent Haitian human-rights lawyer is calling on Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre to apologize for allegedly lying about the ouster of the Caribbean nation's president 10 years ago this week.

Attorney Mario Joseph made the request today during a visit to Montreal that coincides with the 10-year anniversary of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's removal from office.

At the time of Aristide's expulsion, Coderre was the federal cabinet minister responsible for French-speaking countries such as Haiti.

Joseph, who has represented the ex-president, alleges Coderre lied in the days before Aristide's removal when he said Ottawa did not want the democratically elected Haitian leader to leave.

He alleges Coderre lied again after Aristide's removal by stating that the president had not been forced out and had quit on his own.

Coderre responded to Joseph's allegations by saying he has nothing to apologize for and that he has always been a friend to Haiti.

The rookie mayor, first elected last fall, also says he believes this is a case of someone trying to bring internal Haitian politics to Canada.

Joseph made the allegations ahead of Coderre's planned trip to Haiti in mid-March, which will be a multi-day visit as part of a Canadian delegation focused on helping rebuild the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The lawyer also alleged that Canada played a major role in the U.S.-backed "coup d'etat" that overthrew Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president in its 200-year history.

He said human rights and democracy have suffered in the crisis-stricken country since Aristide's expulsion.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, remains one of the most-popular political figures in Haiti.

Viewed as a champion of the country's poor, Aristide led a movement to oust dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Aristide alienated Haiti's wealthy elite and was forced from power twice, first by a military junta in 1991 and again in 2004 amid a rebellion.

He returned to Haiti in 2011 following exile in South Africa.

- with files from Associated Press