As Haiti Probe Stalls, US Investigates President’s Killing

The United States has become increasingly involved in the investigation into the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, with the main suspects facing the prospect of a trial in American courts as an investigation by the nation’s authorities of the Caribbean is blocked.

Earlier this month, Congress ordered the US State Department to produce a report on the July 7 assassination, which has created a political power vacuum in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and has emboldened the powerful gangs that serve as the de facto authorities in parts of Haiti.

The judge who had been assigned to the case, Garry Orelien, said in a telephone interview that he welcomes the United States’ interest in the case as it would help him move the investigation forward. blocked.

“At no time will the involvement of the United States interfere with the investigation in Haiti. On the contrary, it’s a plus,” said Orelien.

“The United States has the means to apprehend the fugitives who are no longer” in Haiti.

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged Rodolphe Jaar, 49, a dual Haitian-Chilean citizen, with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death.

Florida prosecutors filed similar charges on Jan. 4 against former Colombian military officer Mario Palacios, who Haitian police say was part of a five-man team that stormed Moise’s room and l shot down. The other four alleged members are being held in Haiti.

Palacios, first arrested in Jamaica, was taken to the United States in January. Another key suspect arrested in the Dominican Republic was extradited to the United States this week and a third suspect captured in Jamaica could also be handed over to US authorities, according to media reports.

Palacios maintains his plea of ​​not guilty, his lawyer Alfredo Izaguirre said.

Prosecutors in the United States said that a member of the conspiracy, a Haitian-American whom they described as “co-conspirator No. 1”, traveled to the United States in late June to ask for help to advance the plot.

Jamaican police said Thursday that former Haitian senator John Joel Joseph, a suspect arrested last week in Jamaica, will remain in custody until a court hearing on February 15. It remains unclear whether he will be extradited to the United States or Haiti. .

Haitian police say Joseph provided weapons and planned meetings for the plot to kill Moise.

Earlier this month, the US Congress gave the State Department 90 days to produce its own report on the murder, with help from other agencies. He also ordered an assessment of the independence and ability of Haitian authorities to investigate the assassination.

In a sign of the disarray surrounding the investigation, Bernard St Vil, head of the Port-au-Prince justice system, told Haiti’s Kingdom FM radio on Tuesday that Orelien was no longer in charge of the case because he was no longer in charge of the case. had not completed it on time. established deadline.

Orelien said the delays weren’t his fault and he would pursue the case anyway. He said he was shot twice and his office was broken into during the investigation.

A US State Department spokesman said he supports an independent Haitian investigation and wants those who planned the murder brought to justice.

“Nevertheless, we remain concerned by the slowness of the investigation and the threats and attacks that targeted Judge Orelien,” the spokesman said.

Reuters could not independently confirm the attack on the judge’s office, or whether Orelien was removed from the case. On Friday, the judge officially withdrew from the case, citing “personal reasons”.

Protesters hold signs reading “Justice for Jovenel” outside a court hearing into the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on October 6 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. | Reuters

Although Haitian police have arrested dozens of people, so far no one has been charged in Haiti. In the Haitian justice system, prosecutors file complaints after receiving instructions from an investigating judge.

A Haitian police report in August concluded that a little-known Haitian American doctor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, hired a group of former Colombian soldiers to kill the president and seize power. Sanon was arrested in Haiti shortly after the murder. In July, Sanon’s brother told the Daily Mail that Sanon was not a violent instigator, but did not deny he was in Haiti seeking political change.

Moise’s family say the real masterminds of the attack weren’t caught.

“The people behind my father’s assassination are still at large and remain powerful,” Joverlein Moise, the late president’s son, said in an interview, citing the burglary of Orelien’s office as evidence.

Moise’s murder further undermined Haiti’s precarious political and security situation, encouraging gangs to expand territory and intensify kidnappings – including the two-month abduction of a group of Canadian and American missionaries.

In October, a group of gangs blocked trucks from loading at fuel terminals in a bid to force the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, leading to weeks of crippling shortages.

Henry did not provide a timetable for the general elections, which were originally scheduled for November but postponed after a devastating earthquake hit southern Haiti in August.

Consulted on the role of the United States in the Moise investigation, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Henry himself had requested international assistance with the investigation.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Henry described Moise’s murder as an international crime: “It is for this reason that we formally request mutual legal assistance.”

Some politicians are calling for Henry to be investigated for his alleged involvement in Moise’s death, following accusations that he spoke with a key suspect, former justice official Joseph Felix Badio , a few hours after the murder.

Henry, a political moderate named by Moise shortly before the assassination, denies any involvement.

The New York Times reported last month that Moise was compiling a list of government officials and businessmen linked to drug trafficking before he was assassinated and planned to give the names to the US government. Reuters was unable to confirm this.

Complaints of intimidation by officials hampered the investigation in Haiti. Weeks after the murder, clerks Marcelin Valentin and Waky Philostene said they received phone calls threatening them if they did not modify the files or delete certain names from the registers, according to letters seen by Reuters.

Some Haitians say the United States’ involvement in such a high-profile crime signals an alarming deterioration in the country’s justice system.

“What is happening clearly shows how far impunity is growing,” said Pierre Espérance, of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, adding that the police and judicial authorities had not done enough to move the investigation forward. .

“Haiti cannot have the rule of law without good governance.

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