Haiti prosecutor says evidence links prime minister to murder of president

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s chief prosecutor said on Tuesday that there was evidence linking the acting prime minister to the assass...


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s chief prosecutor said on Tuesday that there was evidence linking the acting prime minister to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and banned him from leaving the country until he answered questions about it.

Last week, the prosecutor issued a police summons for Prime Minister Ariel Henry, asking him to testify about contacts he had with one of the main suspects in the murder. Phone records show Mr Henry spoke with the suspect – Joseph badio, a former intelligence official – within hours of Mr. Moïse’s assassination in July at his home in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Mr Henry, who quickly dismissed the prosecutor from his post, is by far the most prominent figure to have been swept away in a murder investigation which resulted in the arrest of more than 40 people, but failed to sheds light on who ordered and paid for the president’s murder – and why.

The detainees include Mr. Moïse’s security guards, businessmen, three Haitian Americans and 18 Colombian mercenaries accused of leading the assault on Mr. Moïse’s residence. And the police have issued at least a dozen additional arrest warrants, including one against Mr. Badio, whom the Haitian authorities accuse of having armed and directed Colombian mercenaries on the night of the attack.

But as the leads cool down and the main suspects disappear, the investigation appears to be bogged down in a struggle for political power. Competing factions of the country’s elite are using Mr. Moïse’s murder to attack opponents, leading many Haitians to fear that they will never see justice served for a crime that has left the nation adrift.

“They are fighting for power and Ariel’s enemies are using the justice system against him,” said Pierre Espérance, a Haitian human rights activist who is independently investigating the murder of Mr. Moïse. “What happened in the country today is something we have never seen before.”

The prime minister’s office called the travel ban illegal and a “political theater” and said it had not been directly informed of the decision by prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude. Calls for comment on Mr. Henry’s cell phone were not immediately answered.

Whether the prosecutor, Mr. Claude, has the power to investigate and demand the questioning of Mr. Henry or charge him in the assassination is doubtful. On Monday, Mr. Henry dismissed Mr. Claude from his post, according to the Prime Minister’s office. And, anyway, the prosecutor no longer has authority over the investigation, which is now in the hands of a judge.

Haitian law prohibits judicial authorities from prosecuting senior officials without permission from the country’s leader – who is currently Mr. Henry.

Amid Tuesday’s uproar, Senate leader Joseph Lambert staged a play to become Haiti’s next president. Mr. Lambert, who tried to claim the presidency at the time after the assassination of Mr. Moïse, tried once again to claim the country’s first post on Tuesday evening.

The senator’s office called local media in parliament to live stream his swearing-in, but before he could do so, a shooting erupted, preventing Mr Lambert from entering the building, according to Western diplomats and officials. Haitian officials.

Once the international community, led by the United States government, learned of Mr. Lambert’s plans, it presented a united front and warned the senator against taking the presidency without further national consent. large, according to a diplomat in Port-au-Prince.

The ruling against Mr. Henry came a day after Mr. Moïse’s widow, Martine Moïse, was called by the judge in charge of the case to appear for questioning on September 20. Mrs. Moses was in the room with her husband when he was killed, and was also seriously injured in the attack. Ms. Moïse has since announced her candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections.

Since the assassination, Haiti has been hit by two natural disasters – an earthquake and a severe storm. The first killed nearly 2,000 people, and the second caused landslides and flooding, further displacing the population and delaying the recovery of the country. Together, they have added to the overlapping political crises hanging over Haiti.

Mr Henry, a neurosurgeon who was appointed prime minister by Mr Moïse just days before the murder, has struggled to assert his authority over the country since he was sworn in in July. In previous remarks, Mr. Henry has denied any connection to the murder and Said the conspiracy brains stayed on the run.

Police are investigating a complex plot they say spans multiple countries and revolves around a little-known doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who was born in Haiti and lives in Florida. Authorities say he conspired kill the president and take power.

But none of the suspects detained appear to have had the means to fund the plot – or the ability to seize power after the president’s death.

The investigation, which has become bogged down in irregularities and falsifications since its inception, provided few responses to Haitians and undermined the little confidence many had in the country’s corrupt and dysfunctional legal system.

Several court officials who gathered the first evidence in the case went into hiding after claiming to have received death threats. A court clerk involved in the investigation has died in unclear circumstances and the first judge assigned to the case has recused himself, citing personal reasons.

Some of the detained Colombian soldiers claimed their confessions were extracted under torture, and investigators from the United States and Colombia who arrived in Haiti to help with the case said they had been dismissed by Haitian authorities. .

The combination of these setbacks crippled the investigation, legal experts in Haiti said, and left it open to manipulation by politicians seeking to profit from the murder of Mr. Moïse.

Since the assassination, a political rupture between Mr. Moïse and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, which began in the last years of the presidency of Mr. Moïse, has continued to escalate and threaten the fragile political balance of country.

The Haitian cabinet is now divided between the allies of Mr. Moïse and those of Mr. Martelly, who is the expected favorite of the next presidential election.

The two men were once allies. Mr. Martelly appealed to Mr. Moïse to succeed him as president in 2015, pulling him out of political obscurity. But officials close to Mr. Moïse said relations had become increasingly strained, with Mr. Martelly angry with Mr. Moïse for not openly supporting him for the upcoming elections.

In the weeks leading up to the president’s death, Mr. Martelly pressured Mr. Moïse to shake up his cabinet, appointing new ministers and Mr. Henry as prime minister, according to an international diplomat and officials close to the government. deceased president.

But Mr. Moïse insisted on retaining several officials in key positions, including the ministers of justice and finance and the public prosecutor. They are now trying to move the murder investigation forward, government officials close to Mr. Moïse have said.

Mr. Martelly’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amid political turmoil and violence in the country, national elections scheduled for this year are expected to be postponed until next year, diplomats said.

The chaotic nature of the investigation also compounded the disillusionment of many Haitians who were already struggling to make ends meet and left them clueless about the future of their country.

“It is very difficult to find justice in Haiti,” said Raphaël Jean Gilles, a street vendor, before listing the names of top Haitian politicians who were murdered, their deaths unresolved decades later. “The people who killed Moses are the ones who still hold power. It will continue like this, nothing will change.

Milo Milfort, André Paultre and Constant Meheut contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Haiti prosecutor says evidence links prime minister to murder of president
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