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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared in court Thursday after three times shunning a summons for a hearing on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-1986 regime.

Dozens of supporters cheered as Duvalier emerged to face the three-judge panel.

Those seeking to have Duvalier prosecuted smiled as they saw him finally arrive, and some applauded.

Reed Brody, counsel and a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, said the session ‘‘is an important victory for Duvalier’s victims, who never gave up hope of seeing him in court, and for the Haitian people who have the right to know what happened during the dark years of the Duvalier dictatorship.’’


Associated Press