Ariel Henry was asked to come in for questioning next week as part of investigation into president’s July assassination.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has replaced the country’s justice minister, days after firing a chief public prosecutor who had called for Henry to be charged in connection with the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
The latest fractures in a deepening political crisis in the Caribbean nation also included the resignation of the secretary-general of Haiti’s Council of Ministers, Renald Luberice, who said in a letter on Wednesday he could not remain under the direction of a prime minister who “does not intend to cooperate with justice, seeking, on the contrary, by all means, to obstruct it”.
The resignation came as Henry replaced Justice Minister Rockfeller Vincent with Interior Minister Liszt Quitel, who will take charge of both portfolios, according to a statement in Haiti’s official gazette.
The most recent imbroglio centres on two phone calls Henry made to a key suspect – Joseph Badio, former chief of the government’s anti-corruption unit – just hours after gunmen entered Moise’s home on July 7 and assassinated him.
To date, more than 40 suspects have been arrested in the slaying, including 18 Colombian ex-soldiers who have accused Haitian authorities of torturing them while in custody. Badio remains on the run.
Last week, Port-au-Prince Chief Prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude had asked Henry to meet with him on September 14 to discuss the phone calls with Badio. Henry dismissed the request as politically motivated.
Then, on Tuesday, Claude ordered the judge overseeing the case to charge Henry based on the evidence and bar him from leaving the country.
Hours later, Claude was forced out of the position under orders from Henry on accusations of “serious administrative fault”.
Henry has denied any involvement in the murder but has not directly addressed the phone calls.
Government future uncertain
Henry, who Moise appointed as the next prime minister just two days before his assassination, continues to maintain support from the international community, even as he faces fractures in support at home.
On Wednesday evening, a key group of international diplomats issued a statement saying it encouraged efforts by Henry and other political leaders to reach an agreement and form an inclusive government “to preserve national cohesion and allow the country to resume its journey towards political stability”.
The Core Group, composed of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the US, France, the European Union and representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, also demanded that “full light be shed on the assassination” of Moise.
Haiti has just a few elected officials after failing two years ago to hold legislative or municipal elections amid a political gridlock.
Moise had ruled by decree before he was killed. There is no constitutional framework for a government in the current situation.
Meanwhile, Haiti’s citizens continue to face daily realities of rampant crime and high rates of poverty.
Haiti sank further into a humanitarian crisis following a powerful earthquake that devastated the southwest of the country on August 14, killing more than 2,200 people.