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Widow of Haiti’s president, ex-prime minister and former police chief indicted in assassination

Widow of Haiti’s president, ex-prime minister and former police chief indicted in assassination

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A judge investigating the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse issued a final report on Monday that indicts his widow, Martine Moïse, ex-prime minister Claude Joseph and the former chief of Haiti’s National Police, Léon Charles, among others.

The indictments are expected to further destabilize Haiti as it struggles with a surge in gang violence and recovers from a spate of violent protests demanding the resignation of current Prime Minister Ariel Henry. A total of nearly 50 suspects were indicted in the 122-page judge’s report.

Charles, who now serves as Haiti’s permanent representative to the Organization of the American States, faces the most serious charges: murder; attempted murder; possession and illegal carrying of weapons; conspiracy against the internal security of the state; and criminal association.

Meanwhile, Martine Moïse and Joseph are accused of complicity and criminal association.

Charles could not be immediately reached for comment. Neither Joseph nor the spokesman for Martine Moïse’s attorney responded to messages for comment.

Others who face charges including murder are Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-American pastor who visualized himself as Haiti’s next president and said he thought Moïse was only going to be arrested; Joseph Vincent, a Haitian-American and former informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Dimitri Hérard, presidential security chief; John Joël Joseph, a former Haitian senator; and Windelle Coq, a Haitian senator whom authorities say is a fugitive.

Sanon, Vincent and Joseph were extradited to the U.S., where a total of 11 suspects have faced federal charges in the slaying of Haiti’s president. Three have been sentenced.

Meanwhile, more than 40 suspects are languishing in prison in Haiti awaiting trial, although it was not immediately clear how quickly one would be held following the judge’s findings issued Monday.

The the report released Monday said: “We were able to discover with insight the degree of participation and the role of each of the groups of delinquents who joined together under the influence of Machiavellian plans developed between authors, co-authors, accomplices and henchmen for the purposes of assassinating President Jovenel Moïse.”

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

The attack began late July 6 and ended July 7, according to witnesses.

Martine Moïse and others who were interrogated said they heard heavy gunfire that began around 1 a.m. and lasted between 30 to to 45 minutes before armed men burst into the bedroom of the presidential couple.

Moïse said she was lying on the ground when she heard the attackers yell, “That’s not it! That’s not it! That’s not it!”

She said the suspects made a video call to identify the exact location of what they were searching as they killed the president. She added that she was face down when the suspects tilted her head and tugged on one of her toes “to ensure that she wasn’t alive.”

Once they left, Moïse said she dragged herself on the ground and whispered to her husband that she was going to try and go to the hospital.

“That’s when she noticed that the president was dead and that his left eye had been removed from the socket,” the report stated.

Moïse said a group of about 30 to 50 police officers were supposed to guard the presidential residence, but the judge noted that only a handful of officers were present that night. One officer told the judge that he heard explosions and a voice through a megaphone saying, “Do not shoot! It’s a DEA operation! US Army! We know how many officers are inside. Exit with two hands lowered.”

Another officer said the head of security of the first lady found her “in critical condition” surrounded by her two children. He said he also saw an undetermined number of people coming out of the president’s residence “with briefcases and several envelopes in their possession.”

Inspector General André Vladimir Paraison said the president called him at 1:46 a.m. and said, “Paraison! Man, hurry up! I’m in trouble! Come quickly and save my life.” He said he encountered heavily armed men and couldn’t access the residence immediately.

The judge’s report noted that some police officers at the residence were disarmed and handcuffed, while others “had time to throw themselves down a ravine” for safety.

It also noted how “none of the police providing security to the head of state was in danger. Unfortunately, the head of state was assassinated with ease.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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