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The widow of Jovenel Moïse charged with complicity in his assassination

Photo: Valerie Baeriswyl Agence France-Presse Martine Moïse during her husband's funeral, July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien

Danica Coto – Associated Press and Evens Sanon – Associated Press in Port-au-Prince

February 20, 2024

  • Americas

A Haitian judge investigating the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has indicted his widow, Martine Moïse, former Haiti Prime Minister Claude Joseph, and former leader of the Haitian National Police, Léon Charles, among others, according to a report obtained Monday.

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.

Around fifty suspects were charged in the 122-page report published by Walther Wesser Voltaire, who is the fifth judge to lead the investigation, the previous ones having resigned for various reasons, including fear of being killed.

Charles, who was police chief at the time of Moïse's assassination and who is now Haiti's permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), must answer to the leaders most serious charges: murder, attempted murder, illegal possession and carrying of weapons, conspiracy against the internal security of the State and criminal conspiracy.

Joseph and Martine Moïse, who was injured during the attack, are accused of complicity and criminal association.

Léon Charles could not immediately be reached for comment, and Martine Moïse's lawyer did not respond to our messages.

Meanwhile, Mr. Joseph, the former prime minister, issued a statement to the Associated Press accusing Mr. Henry of “undermining” the investigation and profiting from the president's death.

“Henry […] uses the Haitian justice system as a weapon, pursuing political opponents like me. It’s a classic coup, Mr. Joseph said. They failed to kill Martine Moïse and me on July 7, 2021, and now they are using the Haitian justice system to advance their Machiavellian agenda. »

“Justice must be done”

Joseph again called on Henry to resign and noted that, when he was still prime minister, he had invited the FBI to help local authorities investigate the assassination and had written to the UN and OAS for assistance.

“I will not stop my fight. Justice must be done,” he said.

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

Valbrun also testified that two days before her husband's assassination, Martine Moïse had gone to the National Palace and spent nearly five hours, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., remove “a bunch of stuff”.

He added that, two days after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, Martine Moïse called him to tell him this: “Jovenel has done nothing for us. You need to open the desktop. The president told Ti Klod to create a council of ministers; he will hold elections in three months so that I can become president, now we will have power. »

The document does not identify Ti Klod, but the former prime minister, Claude Joseph, is known by that name.

The judge also indicated in his report that Martine Moïse had “suggested” that she had taken refuge under the marital bed to protect herself from the attackers. But he noted that authorities at the scene found that “even a giant rat… measuring between 35 and 45 centimeters” could not fit under the bed.

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

Others charged with murder are Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-American pastor who saw himself as Haiti's next president and who 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, head of presidential security, John Joël Joseph, a former Haitian senator, and Windelle Coq, a Haitian judge who authorities consider a fugitive.

Sanon, Vincent and Joseph were extradited to the United States, where a total of eleven suspects face federal charges in connection with the assassination of the Haitian president. At least three of them have already been convicted.

Meanwhile, more than forty suspects languish in Haitian prisons awaiting trial, although it was not immediately clear how soon any of them would be tried following the Monday's indictments. Among them are twenty former Colombian soldiers.

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

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

Martine Moïse and other people interviewed said they heard heavy gunshots starting at 1 a.m., which lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, before armed men burst into the presidential couple's bedroom.

Ms. Moses 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. She said she was face down when the suspects tilted her head and pulled on one of her toes “to make sure she wasn't alive.”

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

“It was then that she noticed that the president was dead and that his left eye had been removed from the socket,” the report states.

Ms. Moses said a group of 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. An officer told the judge he heard explosions and a voice over a megaphone saying, “Don’t shoot! It's a DEA operation! US Army! We know how many officers are inside. Come out with both hands down. »

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

The report quotes Inspector General André Vladimir Paraison, who says the president called him at 1:46 a.m. and said, “Paraison! Dude, hurry up! I am in trouble ! Come quickly and save my life. » He said he encountered heavily armed men and was unable to immediately gain access to the residence.

Officers at the scene reported finding cars, windows and doors to the president's private home riddled with bullet holes, as well as disabled surveillance cameras and a broken lock on the double wooden door leading to the president's bedroom.

The judge said some police officers present at the residence were unarmed and handcuffed, while others “had time to throw themselves into a ravine” for safety. Additionally, the police officer responsible for the president's security was accused of receiving US$80,000 to bribe some officers “to remain inactive” during the assassination, according to the report.

The judge noted that “none of the police officers ensuring the security of the head of state were in danger. Unfortunately, the head of state was assassinated with ease.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116