PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Presidential candidate Yves Volel was shot and killed by police Tuesday as he delivered a speech near police headquarters demanding freedom for an alleged political prisoner, witnesses said.
A reporter from TeleHaiti, a local independent television network, said that plainclothes officers walked out of the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Section, approached Volel, beat him and then shot him.
Radio Metropole reported that Volel, candidate of a small party called the Christian Democratic Rally, was struck by bullets in the head and back and died instantly.
Police gave a different version. On the 10 p.m. news on the government television station, Maj. Joseph Baguidy, head of the department's criminal research division, said, "Volel brought about 100 people in front of the police station (and) incited the mob" to violence.
Baguidy did not say who started shooting, but said that in the melee, "Volel received a bullet in the head."
Police cleared the area of bystanders and reporters and confiscated the film, cameras and equipment of photographers, the witnesses said.
In the first police version of the killing, Police Chief Gregoire Figaro said in an afternoon statement that police shot Volel, 54, a lawyer, in an exchange of gunfire as he tried to enter the headquarters carrying a handgun. He was accompanied by a group of gunmen he had hired in an attempt to free a client, Jean Raymond Louis, the statement added.
"Yves Volel presented himself at police headquarters with a group of armed men and made a 10-minute speech," Figaro's statement said. "Several shots were fired. Yves Volel carried a Colt .45 pistol."
Louis has been held for a month without being charged, and Volel had invited journalists to accompany him to the headquarters.
"They arrested Louis without a warrant for political reasons," Volel had 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. (Tuesday) to offer him my services."
Commenting on the police statement, Jean-Claude Bajeux, co-leader of the Front for Concerted Action, Haiti's main opposition political group, said: "That is the whole world turned upside down. They do what they want. All the . . . communiques are lies."
Volel is the second presidential candidate to be slain in the last three months. On Aug. 2, Louis Eugene Atisse was hacked to death by a mob of peasants on the steps of a church in the town of Leogane, 20 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Volel was a minor candidate among the 30 presidential hopefuls who have registered so far for a presidential election scheduled Nov. 29. But he was better known than many of the others, in part because of the .45-caliber pistol that he usually carried in his belt.
He was a husky, balding man who described himself as an expert marksman. He had told reporters at a news conference in July that he once used his handgun to kill one of five would-be assassins during an attack on his car.
He had been a persistent critic of the National Government Council, a provisional ruling body led by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy. He had endorsed anti-government demonstrations and strikes that shut down most of Haiti's major cities in June and July, and when others were moderating their opposition, he insisted that the Government Council step down.
During the summer strikes, opposition members said they would not participate in the elections because of violence that they blamed on the government, which is dominated by the military.
But since August, the Front for Concerted Action, a coalition of 57 opposition groups, has said it would participate in the elections.
Bajeux said Tuesday that Volel's death would not change that commitment.
Volel was a lieutenant in the army during the early 1960s but was exiled in 1963. He returned from New York in 1986 after former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country.
His Christian Democratic Rally is an offshoot of the larger Christian Democratic Party.