PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Justice Minister Jean-Joseph Exume said Saturday that charges by American officials that a senior Haitian Cabinet minister was linked to last week's slaying of a prominent pro-military attorney were based on the claims of "two unreliable criminals."
Allegations that Interior Minister Mondesir Beaubrun was involved in a plot to kill Mireille Durocher has some U.S. sources here concerned about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's control over his government and his sincerity in promising not to seek revenge against his enemies.
Durocher, an outspoken opponent of Aristide and constant defender of the now-ousted military regime, was murdered Tuesday in a daylight ambush. A companion was also killed.
After the incident, another assassination plot against Durocher came to light, one that had been foiled when U.S. military intelligence officials learned of the plan earlier last month and arrested brothers Eddy and Patrick Moise. They allegedly implicated Beaubrun.
However, both U.S. and Haitian authorities say there is no evidence linking last week's murders to the earlier plot.
Aristide aides have said there is no credible evidence against Beaubrun in either plot.
"The only information given me," Exume said in an interview, came from the Moise brothers, who have long criminal records and reputations for violent behavior.
"These are not reliable people," he said. "I could not act only on the basis of what they said. There was no other proof."
Aristide aides also rejected suggestions that the president would conspire with Beaubrun, a former member of the army high command that ran Haiti after driving Aristide into exile. "He is no friend of ours," one Aristide adviser said.
The adviser also said the president opposed Beaubrun's appointment as Interior minister and went ahead only under pressure from U.S. officials, who argued that the Cabinet needed representation from conservative sectors of Haiti.
American officials say Beaubrun was implicated in the first plan by a piece of paper with his name on it found in the Moises' car when they were arrested.
In addition, the sources said, the brothers held two meetings with Beaubrun in his office the week before the conspiracy was stopped.
Exume said the Moises had also told U.S. officials that they had planned to use a car given to them by Beaubrun and registered to the Interior Ministry.
Beaubrun "is not stupid, and that would have been very stupid," Exume said.
Some U.S. officials--while acknowledging that there is no indication that Aristide knew of the plot or of any connection between Beaubrun and the arrested men--say the president either has downplayed the importance of the evidence against the Interior minister or has acted too slowly to clear up the matter.
In casting doubt on the information given by the Moise brothers, Exume, who is highly regarded for his integrity by U.S. diplomats here, pointed to the records of the two men.
In addition to long records of nonpolitical crimes, they have identified themselves as radical Communists. They founded an obscure radical movement that occupied the Canadian Embassy here in early 1992. Although the brothers claimed to support Aristide, the president immediately condemned the occupation and disavowed any connection with the brothers or their organization. "They have nothing to do with us," a senior Aristide aide said last week. "And we have nothing to do with them."