Haiti PM rejects ‘diversionary tactics’ in Moise killing probe

Ariel Henry was asked to come in for questioning next week as part of investigation into president’s July assassination.

Ariel Henry was confirmed as Haiti's prime minister on July 20, less than two weeks after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home in Port-au-Prince [File: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]

A day after investigators invited Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to appear for questioning as part of their probe into the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Henry has rejected what he described as “diversionary tactics”.

Haiti’s chief public prosecutor on Friday asked the prime minister to meet him next week to explain why he spoke with one of the main suspects in Moise’s killing at his private residence in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on July 7.

The president’s assassination threw the Caribbean nation, which was already struggling with surging gang violence and political instability, into further disarray – and Haitians have demanded a thorough and independent investigation into what happened.

“I want to tell those who have not yet understood, that diversionary tactics to sow confusion and prevent #justice from calmly running its course will not stand,” Henry wrote on Twitter in French on Saturday, without directly referring to the request.

“The real culprits, the masterminds and sponsors of the odious assassination of President Jovenel Moise, will be identified, brought to justice and punished for their crime,” he said in another tweet.

Late on Friday, prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude asked Henry to appear on Tuesday to answer questions about the calls. Police are still actively searching for the former official, Joseph Felix Badio, who worked in the justice ministry’s anti-corruption unit.

The killing of former Haitian President Jovenel Moise plunged the nation into deeper political instability [File: Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters]

Badio’s phone was allegedly tracked to the area near Moise’s residence when he called Henry twice in the early hours of July 7, after the president was assassinated.

Given that a judge has already been assigned to handle the probe, Claude in theory does not have the power to summon anyone, but he justified his request by citing the “extreme seriousness” of the investigation, which is in the “national interest”.

A prime minister legally cannot be questioned unless the president authorises it, but in the wake of Moise’s slaying, Haiti does not have a president.

Claude specified that Henry’s participation in questioning would be voluntary “given the restrictions in place” due to his post.

So far, 44 people, including 18 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent, have been arrested in connection with the inquiry into the assassination of Moise. None of the president’s security guards were injured in the attack.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies