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Haitian leaders chased from funeral

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Protesters at the funeral Saturday of 11 men shot by police angrily chased Haiti's premier and justice minister from the church, then blocked roads, lobbed stones at police officers and smashed windows of passing vehicles.

"Justice!" the protesters yelled when Premier Jacques-Edouard Alexis and Justice Minister Camille Leblanc entered St. Gerard Catholic Church to pay respects to the victims' families.They chased the two men from the church, and security guards hustled them into their vehicles.

The funeral Mass, attended by some 500 mourners, was curtailed.

The protesters then forced a hearse carrying two coffins to head toward the National Palace, but they were blocked by police. Police fired into the air and launched tear-gas canisters to disperse the rock-and-bottle-throwing demonstrators.

It was the latest in a series of protests, sometimes violent, spearheaded by militant supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Some of the protesters Saturday called for Aristide's return in 2000 elections.

Aristide was constitutionally barred from holding a consecutive term of office and was succeeded by Rene Preval in February 1996. He has already begun campaigning for re-election.

Pro-Aristide grass-roots leader Rene Civil condemned the interruption of the funeral but blamed it on Alexis.

"Alexis knew he had no place there," he told Radio Signal F.M., saying the government was protecting the police who allegedly gave the orders to execute the 11 men.

Former capital police chief Jean Coles Rameau was jailed June 5 after 11 men in his custody were shot in the head during a police raid on a Port-au-Prince slum on May 28. Police first said that they killed the men in a shootout with gangsters. But witnesses protested and Leblanc agreed it appeared to be a summary execution.