Sunday, August 7

Haiti prosecutor seeks to charge prime minister with murder, is replaced

A new attorney general was sworn in Tuesday hours after his predecessor asked a judge to indict Prime Minister Ariel Henry for the assassination of the president and bar him from leaving Haiti, a move that could further destabilize a country shaken by the turmoil after the murder. and a recent major earthquake.

The request made by Port-au-Prince Bed-Ford prosecutor Claude, who was fired by Henry, came on the same day that the prosecutor had asked the prime minister to attend a meeting and explain why he spoke twice with a key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse within hours of the assassination.

“There are enough compromising elements … to prosecute Henry and call for his direct indictment,” Claude wrote before being replaced by Frantz Louis Juste, a prosecutor who oversaw the case of the deaths of more than a dozen children in a fire in an orphanage near Port-au-Prince last year.

A spokesperson for Henry could not be reached for comment.

It was unclear if Claude’s removal would have any impact on the case, but one analyst noted that the investigation is in the hands of a judge.

It was not clear if Claude was officially removed from office before making the request to the judge. The Associated Press obtained a letter dated Monday in which Henry told Claude that he was being fired for an indefinite “serious administrative misconduct” and that the decision was effective as soon as he received the document.

Claude did not respond to a request for comment about his firing or when he received the letter.

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Claude said the phone calls in question were made at 4:03 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. on July 7, adding that evidence shows that the suspect, Joseph Badio, was in the vicinity of Moïse’s home at that time. moment. Badio once worked for the Haitian Ministry of Justice and in the government’s anti-corruption unit until he was fired in May amid allegations of violating unspecified ethical rules.

In the two-page document, Claude said the calls lasted a total of seven minutes and that Henry was at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince at the time. The prosecutor also noted that a government official tweeted last month that Henry told him he never spoke to Badio.

On Monday, Justice Minister Rockfeller Vincent ordered the Haitian National Police chief to reinforce Claude’s security because Claude had received “significant and disturbing” threats in the past five days.

Brian Concannon, an adviser to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said he did not expect much change despite the appointment of a new prosecutor.

“A lot of this is theater,” he said.

Concannon noted that the murder case is in the hands of Judge Garry Orélien and that he can decide whether to continue an investigation of Henry even if the new prosecutor warns otherwise. He said the judge has three months to determine whether to take action.

Robert Fatton, an expert on Haitian politics at the University of Virginia, said there was clearly a power struggle within the government between Henry and those who supported Moïse.

“We have a very confusing situation, a power struggle at the moment, and we will see who wins it,” he said. “It is not clear where we are going and it is not clear what the international community thinks about everything.”

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In recent days, the Haitian Citizen Protection Office, similar to an ombudsman, announced that it was demanding that Henry resign and called for the international community to stop supporting him.

Henry has not specifically addressed the issue in public, although during a meeting with politicians and civil society leaders on Saturday, he said he is committed to helping stabilize Haiti.

“Rest assured that no distractions, no summons or invitations, no maneuvers, no threats, no rear-guard combat, no aggression will distract me from my mission,” Henry said. “The real culprits, the intellectual authors and co-authors and sponsors of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse will be found and brought to justice and punished for their crimes.”

Moïse had appointed Henry as prime minister shortly before he was killed at his home in an attack that also seriously wounded his wife, Martine Moïse.

More than 40 suspects have been arrested in the case, including 18 former Colombian soldiers. Authorities continue to search for additional suspects, including Badio and a former Haitian senator.

The investigation is ongoing despite court clerks going into hiding after receiving death threats if they did not change certain names and statements in their reports.

Additionally, a Haitian judge assigned to oversee the investigation resigned last month for personal reasons. He left after one of his assistants died in unclear circumstances. A new judge has been appointed.

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