Haiti’s prosecutor says proof hyperlinks the prime minister to the president’s assassination
Haiti’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday that there was evidence linking the incumbent prime minister to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and forbade him to leave the country until he has answered questions about it.
Last week, the prosecutor issued a police subpoena to Prime Minister Ariel Henry to testify through contact with one of the prime suspects in the murder. Telephone records show Mr Henry spoke to the suspect – Joseph Badio, a former government official – in the hours following the murder of Mr Moïse at his residence near Port-au-Prince, the capital.
Mr. Henry is by far the most prominent person involved in a murder investigation that resulted in the arrest of more than 40 people, but has shed little light on who ordered and paid for the President’s murder – and why.
Those arrested included Mr. Moïse’s security officers, businessmen, three Haitian Americans and 18 Colombian mercenaries who were accused of leading the attack on Mr. Moïse’s home. And the police have issued at least a dozen other arrest warrants, including one against Mr Badio, whom the Haitian authorities accuse of armed and commanded the Colombian mercenaries on the night of the attack.
But when the clues cool and important suspects disappear, the investigation seems to slide into a political power struggle. Competing elites are using Mr Moïse’s assassination to attack opponents, leading many Haitians to fear that they will never see justice for a crime that has left the nation behind.
The prime minister’s office called the travel ban illegal and “political theater” and said it had not been informed directly of the move by Public Prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude.
Whether the district attorney, Mr. Claude, has the authority to lead the investigation and to request the questioning of Mr. Henry or to charge him with the assassination is doubtful. Mr. Claude no longer has any authority over the case, which is now in the hands of a judge.
And Haitian law prohibits judicial officers from prosecuting senior officials without the permission of the head of state, the position now believed to be held by Mr. Henry.
Mr Henry, a neurosurgeon appointed prime minister just days before Mr Moïse’s assassination, has struggled to enforce his authority over the country since he was sworn in in July. In previous statements to the news media, Henry has denied any connection to the murder, saying that the masterminds of the conspiracy remained at large.
The police are investigating a complex plot that allegedly spans several countries and revolves around the 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 take power.
But none of the jailed suspects appear to have had the means to fund the conspiracy – or the ability to take power after the president’s death. That left a lot of questions unanswered.
Meanwhile, a political divide that began in the later years of Mr Moïse’s presidency has widened since his assassination. It has divided the Haitian leadership, brought further instability to a country facing a series of crises and threatened the integrity of the investigation into his death.
Haiti’s cabinet is now split between Mr Moïse’s allies and those of his predecessor Michel Martelly, who is the expected leader in the next presidential election.
The assassination of the President of Haiti
In 2015, Mr Martelly took Mr Moïse as his successor as President and brought him out of political oblivion. But officials close to Mr Moïse said the relationship between the two men had grown strained and Mr Martelly was angry with Mr Moïse for not openly approving him for the next election.
In the weeks leading up to the president’s death, Mr Martelly had put pressure on Mr Moïse to turn his cabinet upside down and appoint new ministers and Mr Henry as prime minister, according to an international diplomat and officials close to the late president.
But Mr Moïse insisted on keeping several key officials, including the Justice and Finance Ministers and the Public Prosecutor, who are now trying to advance the murder investigation.
Diplomats say the national elections scheduled for this year are likely to be postponed until next year due to the violence and political disorder.
Days after the Chief Prosecutor summoned Henry for questioning, Haitian media reported that the Prime Minister had removed the Attorney General and the prosecutor from their positions. These reports were confirmed by two officials familiar with the matter.
Milo Milfort and Constant Méheut contributed to the coverage.