Tue | Dec 7, 2021

Haiti prosecutor asks judge to charge, probe PM in slaying

Published:Tuesday | September 14, 2021 | 1:29 PM
In this July 20, 2021, file photo, Haiti's designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry (centre) and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (right) pose for a group photo with other authorities in front of a portrait of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse at the National Pantheon Museum during a memorial service for Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haiti’s chief prosecutor has asked a judge to charge Henry in the slaying of his predecessor and barred him from leaving the country. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's chief prosecutor on Tuesday asked a judge to charge Prime Minister Ariel Henry in the slaying of the president and asked officials to bar him from leaving the country, a move that could further destabilise a country that seemed to be calming after the turmoil that followed the assassination and a recent major earthquake.

The order filed by Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude came on the same day that he had requested Henry meet with him and explain why a key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse called him twice just hours after the killing.

“There are enough compromising elements ... to prosecute Henry and ask for his outright indictment,” Claude wrote in the order.

A spokesman for Henry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Claude said the calls were made at 4:03 and 4:20 a.m. on July 7, adding that evidence shows the suspect, Joseph Badio, was in the vicinity of Moïse's home at that time.

Badio once worked for Haiti's Ministry of Justice and at the government's anti-corruption unit until he was fired in May amid accusations of violating unspecified ethical rules.

In the two-page document, Claude said the calls lasted a total of seven minutes and that Henry was at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince at that time.

He also noted that a government official tweeted last month that Henry told him he never spoke with Badio.

On Monday, Justice Minister Rockfeller Vincent ordered the chief of Haiti's National Police to boost security for Claude because the prosecutor had received “important and disturbing” threats in the past five days.

The judge in the case, Garry Orelien, is required to investigate based on Claude's request and has three months to determine whether the facts in the case justify any action.

He would then issue an ordinance dictating what happens to the case, said Brian Concannon, an adviser for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, said there is clearly a fight within the government between Henry and those who supported Moïse.

In recent days, Haiti's ombudsman-like Office of Citizen Protection announced it took the “objective and courageous” decision to demand that Henry step down and asked that the international community stop supporting him.

Henry has not specifically addressed the issue in public, although during a meeting with politicians and civil society leaders on Saturday, he said he is committed to helping stabilise Haiti.

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