PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Presidential candidate Yves Volel was shot and killed by police today as he talked about human rights in a speech delivered in front of police headquarters in which he demanded the release of a prisoner, witnesses said.
Plainclothes policemen shot several times at Volel, who was struck once in the head and once in the back and died instantly, Radio Metropole reported. Police then cleared the area of bystanders and reporters. Photographers' cameras were confiscated.
After the shooting, police declined comment. They would not admit reporters to police headquarters.
It also was reported that Volel was being interrupted by applause when someone came out of the audience and slapped his face. Seconds later he was shot.
Businesses in the area near the National Palace shut and barred their doors in apparent anticipation of further violence.
Volel, an attorney, was a minor candidate for president but a persistent critic of the governing junta of Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy. Volel's center-left Christian Democratic Rally, formed last year, is an offshoot of the larger Christian Democrat Party of Sylvio Claude.
Volel invited reporters to accompany him to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Section, where he demanded the release of Jean Raymond Louis, who allegedly has been held without trial for the last month, and respect for human rights.
"They arrested Louis without a warrant for political reasons," Volel told Radio Metropole in an interview broadcast Monday. "The constitution forbids that and says everybody has a right to a lawyer, so I will go at 10 a.m. (today) to offer him my services."
Volel's body was taken to the State University Hospital morgue, witnesses said.
Volel supported the anti-government strikes and demonstrations of June and July which shut down Haiti's major cities. He carried a Colt .45-caliber revolver with him wherever he went, proudly displaying it at news conferences.
In July, Volel said he was attacked by armed men who sprayed his jeep with machine-gun fire. He claimed he returned fire and possibly killed one of his attackers.
Volel is the second presidential candidate to be killed this year. Louis Eugene Athis, a Social Democrat, was hacked to death Aug. 2 on the steps of a church in a remote village southwest of the capital by a peasant mob shouting, "Kill the communists!"
Volel was one of about 30 candidates who have registered to run for president in the national elections set for Nov. 29, the first in the Caribbean nation in 30 years. The voting will replace the interim government of Namphy, which took power after dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier fled into exile on Feb. 7, 1986.
Volel voiced strong opposition to plans of former Duvalier officials to run in the elections. He had urged the independent commission overseeing the elections to apply rigorously a clause in the new constitution that would bar Duvalier supporters from holding office for the next 10 years.