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Haiti: Widow of slain president and 2 powerful officials among dozens indicted

Former first lady of Haiti, Martine Moise, attends the funeral of her slain husband, former President Jovenel Moise, in Cap-Haitien on July 23, 2021.   -  
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Matias Delacroix/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved


A judge in Haiti responsible for investigating the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has indicted his widow, Martine Moïse, ex-prime minister Claude Joseph and the former chief of Haiti’s National Police, Léon Charles, among others, according to a report obtained Monday (Feb. 19).

Was the cammando who killed late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in cahoots with relatives of his?

The judge stated in his report that Martine Moïse “suggested” she took refuge under the marital bed to protect herself from the attackers, but he noted that authorities at the scene found that not “even a giant rat…whose size measures between 35 and 45 centimeters” could fit under the bed.

The judge said the former first lady’s statements were “so tainted with contradictions that they leave something to be desired and discredit her."

Dozens of suspects were indicted in the 122-page report. Ex-prime minister Claude Joseph and the former chief of Haiti’s National Police, Léon Charles, who is Haiti's serving representative to the Organization of the American States, are among them.

Charles could not be immediately reached for comment, and Martine Moïse’s attorney did not return a message for comment.

Joseph however, shared a statement with The Associated Press accusing Henry of “undermining” the investigation and benefitting from the president's death.

“Henry ... is weaponizing the Haitian justice system, prosecuting political opponents like me. It’s a classic coup d’état,” Joseph said. “They failed to kill me and Martine Moïse on July 7th 2021, now they are using the Haitian justice system to advance their Machiavellian agenda.”

Joseph again called on Henry to resign and noted that while he was still prime minister, he invited the FBI to help local authorities investigate the killing and wrote the U.N. and OAS for help.

“I won’t stop my fight. Justice must be served,” he said.

In his report, the judge noted that the former secretary general of the National Palace, Lyonel Valbrun, told authorities that he received “strong pressure” from Martine Moïse to put the president’s office at the disposal of Joseph because he needed it to “organize a council of ministers."

Valbrun also said that two days before her husband was killed, Martine Moïse visited the National Palace and spent nearly five hours, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., removing “a bunch of things.”

He said that two days after Jovenel Moïse was slain, Martine Moïse called to tell him that, “Jovenel didn’t do anything for us. You have to open the office. The president told Ti Klod to create a council of ministers; he will hold elections in three months so I can become president, now we will have power.”

While the document did not identify Ti Klod, the former prime minister, Claude Joseph, is known by that name.

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 Monday's indictments. Among them are 20 former Colombian soldiers.

The indictments could further destabilize Haiti which struggles with a surge in gang violence and recovers from a spate of violent protests. Demonstrators demanded the resignation of prime minister Ariel Henry who is yet to keep his 2021 pledge to hold elections.

The 11 million Haitians have no elected representative.

Kenya and the UN-backed security force

Kenya agreed to lead an international force tasked with bringing order back the island nation where gangs are responsible for a surge in killings, rapes, and kidnappings.

However, a Kenyan court blocked the U.N-backed deployment of police to help Haiti fight a surge in gang violence, saying it is unconstitutional.

High-ranking officials from both Kenyan and Haiti recently met in the U.S. for three days this week to draft a memorandum of understanding and set a deadline for the arrival of Kenyan police forces.

The closed-door meetings included top U.S. officials.

It was not immediately clear if or how a memorandum of understanding could circumvent the court's ruling, which the president of Kenya has said he would appeal.

Haiti's government said in a statement that there were "intense discussions" to bring a memorandum of understanding into compliance with legislation of both countries.

The deployment was requested by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in October 2022 and approved by the U.N. Security Council last October. But it has since encountered multiple legal obstacles as gang warfare in Haiti's capital and beyond continues to rise.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk recently noted that more than 800 people were killed, injured or kidnapped across Haiti in January, more than three times the number compared with the same month in 2023.

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