Haiti’s chief prosecutor, Bedford Claude, has asked the judge overseeing the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moise to denounce the country’s current prime minister, Ariel Henry, for the crime. Claude also asked that Henry be prevented from leaving the country.
Hours after the announcement, Prime Minister Henry fired the chief prosecutor from the job and installed another, Frantz Louis Juste, who was responsible for the case of the fire at an orphanage in the capital Port-au-Prince last year. It is still unclear what the impact of the change of prosecutors will be on the investigations into the case.
Moise was shot and killed at his home in the early morning of 7 July, without any of his security personnel having been injured. (see below on crime and investigation).
“There are enough compromising elements to prosecute Henry and ask for his direct prosecution,” the head of the District Attorney wrote in the petition to Judge Garry Orelien.
Claude also stated, in a letter to the country’s immigration services, that the prime minister should be “forbidden to leave the national territory by air, sea or road due to the grave presumption relating to the assassination of the president”.
Soldiers guard the coffin of Jovenel Moise, the assassinated president of Haiti, during the official funeral that began on July 23, 2021 — Photo: Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP
Haiti’s chief prosecutor had invited Henry on Friday (10) to a meeting on the investigation, which would be held this Tuesday (14), because the prime minister spoke to one of the main suspects in the case a few hours after the murder.
Henry was invited, not summoned, because legally a prime minister can only testify in Haiti if the president gives permission, but the position has been vacant since Moise was killed.
The prime minister had several phone calls with Joseph Felix Badio, who was director of the anti-corruption unit at the Haitian Ministry of Justice and authorities say he played a key role in the murder.. He’s on the run.
Claude claims that two of the calls took place at 4:03 am and 4:20 am on July 7, a few hours after the crime, and evidence shows that Badio was in the vicinity of the president’s home when the calls were made..
In the midst of the investigation, Haiti’s Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent sent a harsh letter to the head of the National Police demanding that he immediately increase the security of the chief prosecutor, who had received “significant and disturbing” threats in recent days.
Neither Henry nor any of the prime minister’s spokespersons have spoken so far.. On Saturday (11), he had stated that “distraction maneuvers, to create confusion and prevent the Justice from doing its work calmly, will not be approved”.
“The real culprits, the intellectual authors, the co-authors and the sponsors of the heinous murder of President Jovenel Moise will be found, brought to justice and punished for their crimes,” said Ariel Henry.
According to the Associated Press news agency, the prime minister had previously told local radio that he knew Badio and defended him, saying he did not believe he was involved in the crime..
Badio was director of the anti-corruption unit of the Haitian Ministry of Justice. He joined the unit in 2013, but was fired in May after “serious violations” of ethical rules (which were not revealed at the time).
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks at a press conference in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake that hit Haiti — Photo: Reginald Louissant Jr/AFP
Threats and death during investigation
Forty-eight people, including 18 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian origin, were arrested as part of the investigations. about the murder of Moise, who was gunned down in his home without any of his security personnel being harmed.
In August, The New York Times reported that a judge and two court officials were under pressure to alter witness statements and were being threatened with death.
Marcelin Valentin and Waky Philostène, the bailiffs, and Carl Henry Destin, the judge, asked for support from security authorities, but were ignored..
That same month, the judge appointed to oversee the crime investigation resigned, citing personal reasons, after one of his assistants died in unclear circumstances.
In his place was named Garry Orelien, the judge who will rule on the request to denounce the prime minister of Haiti.
Request for prime minister to resign
On Monday (13), the Haitian Citizen Protection Office published a video demanding Henry’s resignation and asked the international community to stop supporting him.
“The prime minister cannot remain in office without cleaning up these dark areas,” said attorney Renan Hédouville, who heads the cabinet. “You must eliminate all these suspicions.”
The then President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise (center), walks with the First Lady, Martine Moise; and the country’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph (right), on May 18, 2021, during a ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of the creation of the Haitian flag. Moise was gunned down at home on July 7, 2021, and the First Lady was shot. — Photo: Joseph Odelyn/AP