(AFP) — The investigation into the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise descended into confusion Tuesday, as the Caribbean island’s prime minister sacked a prosecutor who had accused him of links to the killing.
The decision by Prime Minister Ariel Henry to fire prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude exposed the infighting at the highest levels of what is left of Haiti’s government, more than two months after Moise was slain in his home by gunmen.
Henry’s move came hours after Claude asked the judge investigating Moise’s murder to charge the prime minister with involvement in the case.
“I have the pleasure of informing you that it was decided to terminate your post,” Henry told Claude in a publicly distributed letter.
Henry was named by Moise as prime minister days before the president’s murder.
He was sworn in after the killing, on July 20, pledging to improve the country’s dire security situation and to organise long-delayed elections. Haiti currently has no president and no functioning parliament.
But Claude had begun pointing the finger at Henry, based on alleged phone conversations that the prime minister had with one of the main suspects in the hours after the killing.
“There are sufficient compromising elements that form (my) conviction on the appropriateness of prosecuting Mr Henry and requesting his outright indictment,” wrote Claude in an official letter addressed to a Port-au-Prince court.
In a second letter, Claude also requested Henry be banned from leaving the island nation “for serious presumptions of assassination of the President of the Republic”.
Moise, a politically and publicly controversial figure, was killed overnight from July 6 to 7 when an armed group burst into his private residence in the Haitian capital.
Henry had already been asked to appear for questioning in the case about the alleged conversations he had just a few hours after Moise’s murder, with a former government official wanted in connection with the killing.
– ‘Diversionary tactics’ –
Police are still searching for the former official, Joseph Felix Badio, who worked in the justice ministry’s anti-corruption unit.
Badio’s phone was allegedly tracked to the area near Moise’s residence when Badio called Henry twice in the early hours of July 7, after the president was shot dead by gunmen.
In his letter to the judge, Claude — who was the government commissioner in Port-au-Prince, equivalent to a federal prosecutor — said the calls lasted a total of seven minutes.
He also noted a government official tweeted last month Henry claimed he never spoke with Badio.
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.
Some legal experts were quick to express alarm at Claude’s requests for Henry to be questioned and charged, seeing the prosecutor’s move as an impediment to the independence of the judiciary.
Some in government circles had also called in recent days for the prime minister to resign over the allegations.
“These are grotesque and political acts,” Samuel Madistin, a lawyer for a human rights organisation, told AFP.
So far, 44 people — including 18 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent — have been arrested in connection with the inquiry into the assassination. None of the president’s security guards were injured in the attack.
Henry on Saturday slammed the earlier request for him to be questioned, saying: “These diversionary tactics, designed to create confusion and prevent justice from calmly running its course, will not stand.”
“Those who are truly guilty, the masterminds of the odious assassination of president Jovenel Moise and those who ordered it, will be found, brought to justice and punished for their actions.”