Latin America & Caribbean

Guy Philippe: Former Haiti coup leader pleads not guilty in US court

Guy Philippe (left) during march in the city of Gonaives, Feb 2004 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Philippe (left) is an ex-soldier and Haiti's former police chief

A Haitian former coup leader, Guy Philippe, has pleaded not guilty in a US court to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Mr Philippe, 48, was arrested after appearing as a guest on a radio programme in Port-au-Prince last week.

He was flown to the US to face the long-standing charges.

Dozens of his supporters attended the hearing in Miami, demanding his release. Mr Philippe was recently elected to his country's senate,

"We are here to support Senator Guy Philippe. We all feel like he is innocent," said Haitian Senator Evince Francois.

"We are here to let him know we stand up behind him. We think this is all politics," he told the Associated Press news agency.

'Extrajudicial killings'

Until last week, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) listed Mr Philippe as a wanted man on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and money laundering

His arrest, on 5 January, came days before he was due to be sworn in as a senator, which would have given him some immunity from prosecution.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch has accused him of overseeing extra-judicial killings.

Mr Philippe, Haiti's former police chief, denies any wrongdoing.

He took part in the 2004 rebellion that removed President Jean Bertrand Aristide from power.

The new Haitian Senate, elected in November, was sworn in on Monday, with new president Jovenel Moise due to take office on 7 February.

Haiti has been led by interim President Jocelerme Privert since February 2016 when Michel Martelly stepped down at the end of his term.

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