PORT-AU-PRINCE, Sept 15 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Haiti’s chief prosecutor said that there was evidence linking the acting prime minister to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and prohibited him from leaving the country until he answers questions about it.
Last week, the prosecutor issued a police summons for the prime minister, Ariel Henry, requesting that he testify about contact he had with one of the chief suspects in the killing. Phone records show that Henry spoke with the suspect — Joseph Badio, a former intelligence official — in the hours after Moïse was killed in July in his home in Port-au-Prince, the capital.
Henry, who swiftly removed the prosecutor from his post, is by far the most prominent figure to be swept up in a murder investigation that has resulted in the arrest of more than 40 people but has shed little light onto who ordered and paid for the president’s killing — and why.
The detained include Moïse’s security officers, businessmen, three Haitian Americans and 18 Colombian mercenaries accused of leading the assault on Moïse’s residence. And the police have issued at least a dozen more arrest warrants, including one for Badio, whom the Haitian authorities accuse of arming and directing the Colombian mercenaries on the night of the attack.
The prime minister’s office called the travel ban illegal and “political theater,” and said it had not been directly informed about the move by the prosecutor, Bed-Ford Claude.
Whether the prosecutor, Claude, has the authority to lead the investigation and to demand Henry’s questioning or charge him in the assassination is doubtful. On Monday, Henry dismissed Claude from office, according to the prime minister’s office.
Haitian law forbids judicial officials to prosecute senior civil servants without the authorization of the country’s leader — who at the moment is Henry.
In the midst of Tuesday’s tumult, the chief of the senate, Joseph Lambert, made a play to become Haiti’s next president. Lambert, who tried to claim the presidency in the days after Moïse’s assassination, attempted once more to claim the nation’s top post Tuesday evening.
The senator’s office called local media to Parliament to live broadcast his swearing in, but before he could do so, a gunfight broke out, preventing Lambert from entering the building, according to Western diplomats and Haitian officials.
Once the international community, led by the United States government, became aware of Lambert’s plans, they presented a united front and warned the senator against taking over the presidency without broader national consent, according to a diplomat in Port-au-Prince.
The move against Henry came a day after Moïse’s widow, Martine Moïse, was called by the judge in charge of the case to appear for questioning on Sept 20. Martine was in the bedroom with her husband when he was killed, and was also gravely injured in the attack. Martine has since announced her candidacy in upcoming presidential elections.
Since the assassination, Haiti has been struck by two natural disasters — an earthquake and a heavy storm. The first killed nearly 2,000 people, and the second caused landslides and flooding, further displacing the population and delaying the country’s recovery. Together, they added to the overlapping political crises that are burdening Haiti.
Henry, a neurosurgeon who was named prime minister by Moïse just days before the killing, has struggled to assert his authority over the country since being sworn into office in July. In previous remarks, Henry has denied any connection to the murder and said that the masterminds of the plot remained at large.
The police are investigating a complex plot that they say stretches across several countries and revolves around a little-known doctor and pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who was born in Haiti and lives in Florida. Officials say he conspired to kill the president and seize power.
Several judicial officials who collected initial evidence in the case have gone into hiding after saying they received death threats. One court clerk involved in the investigation died in unclear circumstances and the original judge assigned to the case recused himself, citing personal reasons.
Some of the detained Colombian soldiers have claimed their confessions were extracted under torture, and investigators from the United States and Colombia who arrived in Haiti to assist with the case said they were sidelined by Haitian authorities. — NNN-AGENCIES