Haiti: a judge indicts the widow of President Jovenel Moïse, assassinated in 2021, as well as the former prime minister

The investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 has taken a spectacular step forward

Haiti: a judge indicts the widow of President Jovenel Moïse, assassinated in 2021, as well as the former prime minister

The investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 has taken a spectacular step forward. In a report published Monday, February 19, investigating judge Walther Wesser Voltaire indicted several dozen people including the president's widow, Martine Moïse, former prime minister Claude Joseph and the former head of Haiti's national police Leon Charles.

The latter, who today occupies the position of permanent representative of Haiti to the Organization of American States (OAS), must answer to the most serious charges: murder, attempted murder, possession and illegal carrying of weapons, conspiracy against the internal security of the State and criminal association. Martine Moïse – who was injured during the attack on her husband – and Claude Joseph are accused of complicity and criminal association. Walther Wesser Voltaire is the fifth judge to lead the investigation after the previous ones withdrew for various reasons, including fear of being killed.

The indictments are expected to further destabilize Haiti, which is grappling with a surge in gang violence and recovering from a wave of violent protests demanding the resignation of current Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has served as interim president since. the assassination of Jovenel Moïse.

Ariel Henry “is weaponizing the Haitian justice system, prosecuting political opponents like me. “It’s a classic coup d’état,” Mr. Joseph responded to the Associated Press on Monday. “They failed to kill Martine Moïse and me on July 7, 2021, and now they are using the Haitian judicial system to advance their Machiavellian plan,” he denounced, calling Mr. Henry again. to resign even though the latter had committed, in December 2022, to organizing elections and to leave power at the beginning of February.

Statements “tainted by contradictions”

In his report, Judge Voltaire explains that the former secretary general of the presidential palace, Lyonel Valbrun, told the authorities that he had been subjected to "strong pressure" from Martine Moïse, two days before the assassination of his husband, to make the president's office available to Claude Joseph.

“Jovenel has done nothing for us. You have to open the office. The president told Ti Klod to organize a council of ministers; he will organize elections in three months for me to become president, and we will have power,” Ms. Moïse allegedly told Mr. Valbrun. The document does not identify “Ti Klod” but Claude Joseph is known by that name.

Judge Voltaire also notes in his report that Martine Moïse had “suggested” that she had taken refuge under the marital bed to protect herself from the attackers, but the authorities present on the scene noted that “even a giant rat (… ) 35 to 45 centimeters” could not fit under the bed. According to Mr. Voltaire, the former first lady's statements during the investigation are "so tainted with contradictions that they discredit her."

At the end of January, an arrest warrant issued against the president's widow in order to "question" her was made public on social networks. Treated in Florida after the attack, Ms. Moïse returned to Haiti for her husband's funeral and was interviewed as a witness. The head of state's widow, who is now based in Florida, then refused to cooperate with the investigation.

A vast conspiracy

Claude Joseph was extradited to the United States where eleven suspects are charged at the federal level for the assassination of the Haitian president. At least three of them have already been convicted. Mr Joseph urged the US Federal Police (FBI) to help local authorities investigate Mr Moses' assassination and wrote to the UN and the OAS for help. “I will not stop my fight. Justice must be served,” he said. Furthermore, more than forty suspects are imprisoned in Haiti awaiting trial, including twenty former Colombian soldiers.

U.S. prosecutors have described a plot in both Haiti and Florida to hire mercenaries to kidnap or kill Jovenel Moïse, who was 53 when he was murdered at his home near the Haitian capital, Port -au-Prince.

The attack took place on the night of July 6 to 7, 2021. Martine Moïse and other people interviewed said they heard heavy gunfire starting at 1 a.m., which lasted between thirty minutes and forty minutes. five minutes, before armed men burst into the bedroom of the presidential couple. Ms. Moïse said she was lying on the ground when she heard the attackers shout: “That’s not it! It's not that ! It's not that ! »

She said the suspects made a video call to identify the exact location of what they were looking for when they killed the president, and explained that she was face down on the ground when the attackers shot one of her toes “to make sure she wasn’t alive.” Once they left, Ms. Moïse noticed her husband dead and noticed that his left eye had been removed from its socket, according to the report.

“Murdered with ease.”

Ms. Moïse said a group of about 30 to 50 police officers was supposed to guard the presidential residence, but the judge noted that only a handful of officers were present that night. One of them said he heard explosions and a voice on a megaphone announcing an operation by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Another officer said he saw a number of people leaving the president's residence "with briefcases and several envelopes in their possession."

The report also quotes a presidential security official, André Vladimir Paraison, who says the president called him at 1:46 a.m. saying, “Hurry up! I am in trouble ! Come quickly and save my life. » He added that he was unable to immediately access the residence due to the presence of heavily armed men.

Officers at the scene said they found cars, windows and doors to the president's private home riddled with bullet holes, as well as cut-off surveillance cameras and a broken lock on the double wooden door leading to the president's room.

According to the judge, some police officers present at the residence were unarmed and handcuffed, while others had taken cover. Additionally, according to the report, the police officer in charge of the president's security was accused of receiving $80,000 to bribe certain officers "to remain inactive during the assassination." For Judge Voltaire, President Moïse “was assassinated with ease.”