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Haiti President Moise’s widow, ex-PM among 50 charged in his assassination

Leaked document claims first lady allegedly conspired with former PM to kill the president and replace him herself.

Haiti’s assassinated former President Jovenel Moise sits with his wife Martine during his swearing-in ceremony in parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 7, 2017 [Dieu Nalio Chery/AP Photo]Published On 20 Feb 202420 Feb 2024

A Haitian judge investigating the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise has charged his widow, the former prime minister and an ex-chief of police with complicity in the killing.

The 122-page leaked document, published by local media outlet AyiboPost on Monday, detailed how the president’s widow, Martine Moise, allegedly conspired with former Prime Minister Claude Joseph to kill the president, intending to replace him herself.

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In the document, Judge Walther Wesser Voltaire ordered the arrest and trial of some 50 people involved in the gunning down of Moise at his private residence in July 2021. A group of about 20 assailants, most of them Colombian mercenaries, were on the scene.

All the accused were referred to the criminal court “to be judged on the facts of criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, terrorism, assassination and complicity in assassination”.

Justifying the indictment of the former first lady, who was wounded during the attack, the document described her statements as “so tainted by contradictions that they leave something to be desired and discredit her”.

Joseph and the former director-general of the national police, Leon Charles, were also found to have “sufficient indications” of involvement in the killing. AyiboPost specified that the document did not clearly identify the masterminds of the assassination, nor their financiers.

Moise has criticised what she calls unjust arrests on social media. Joseph previously told the Miami Herald newspaper that the president’s de facto successor, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, was “weaponizing the Haitian justice system” to persecute opponents in “a classic coup d’etat”.

Martine Moise grieves during the funeral for her husband, slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, the main city in his native northern region [Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP]

A spokesperson for Henry’s office said the judge was independent and “free to issue his order in accordance with the law and his conscience”.

Miami trial

A separate case on Moise’s killing is being tried in Miami.

The United States found the case fell within its jurisdiction because part of the assassination plot was hatched in South Florida. Prosecutions were launched against 11 people over their alleged involvement in the murder.

Six of 11 defendants have pleaded guilty to a plot to send Colombian mercenaries to kidnap Moise, a plan which was at the eleventh hour changed to a plot to murder him.

The conspirators had, according to US charges, sought to replace Moise with Haitian-American pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon.

Chaos

Since Moise’s death, Haiti has only spiralled deeper into chaos. No election has been held and Moise has not been succeeded as president.

Henry, who now leads an opposition party, postponed elections indefinitely, citing a devastating earthquake and the growing power of heavily armed criminal gangs, for which he has sought foreign aid.

Gangs run rampant in large swaths of the country, now estimated to control most of the capital, and homicides more than doubled last year to nearly 4,800, according to a United Nations report released this month.

Kenya is preparing to lead a UN-ratified international force to support Haitian police, though prior abuses by foreign missions and allegations against Henry’s government have left countries wary of volunteering support.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies