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Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Ex-principal Haitian rebel leader, presidential candidate, Philippe, sought by U.S. vehemently denies drug ties
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - A former rebel leader and presidential candidate who disappeared after U.S. anti-drug agents raided his home denied links to drug trafficking and said he is being politically persecuted, according to a recording played Monday by a Haitian radio station.

«Clearly this is a political game that is happening. They're trying to destroy me, they're trying to eliminate me,» Guy Philippe says on the recording played by private broadcaster Radio Caraibes, Haiti's most widely heard radio station.

Radio Caraibes said an unidentified individual delivered the recording on a compact disc Saturday but it was not clear when it was made. Philippe, who helped toppled former President Jean-Bertand Aristide in 2004, went into hiding after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Haitian police descended from helicopters and raided his home in the coastal city of Les Cayes on July 16.

In the recording, Philippe said his wife was assaulted and held at gunpoint during the raid, which he urged Haitian authorities to investigate.

«These people did not come to arrest me. They came to assassinate me,» Philippe said.

«Before when they wanted to eliminate someone, they called them a communist. Now there's no more communists so you're either a terrorist or into drugs,» he added. «I want everyone to know: I am not involved in drugs. If they have proof, let them bring it. Haiti's sparsely guarded coastline and high level of corruption make it an attractive transshipment point for cocaine destined for the United States.

President Rene Preval said Friday the U.S.-Haitian drug offensives will continue and confirmed that some suspects have already been extradited to the United States.

Philippe did not reveal his location but said he planned to return to Les Cayes and live like «a simple citizen.

«If they're accusing me of something I'm ready to go before any tribunal. I don't want this to be a political reprisal,» he said.

Philippe was the police chief of Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, but fled the country in 2000 after he was accused of plotting a coup. He returned in 2004 to lead rebels in a three-week uprising that toppled Aristide.

Philippe said U.S. officials told him in 2000 that he was being investigated for drug ties and that his U.S. entry visa was being suspended. He said he was contacted again in April 2006 and told his travel visa had been reinstated, although it is unclear if he ever visited the United States.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to comment Monday, citing the ongoing investigation and privacy laws regarding Philippe's visa status.

Copyrighted 2007 The Associated Press

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