The Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, dismissed prosecutor Bel-Ford Claude on Tuesday hours after he asked a judge to open an investigation against him for the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Henry communicated the dismissal of the prosecutor in a letter in which he justified the dismissal for an alleged “serious administrative offense” committed by Claude.
The prosecutor had asked the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance to investigate Ariel Henry as a defendant in the assassination case. In a letter addressed to Judge Garry Orélien, who was charged with investigating the case, prosecutor Bel-Ford Claude said that the prime minister spoke by phone twice with one of the suspects in ordering the death of Moïse, former official Joseph Felix Badio. hours after the murder, on July 7.
In another letter sent to the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, the prosecutor asked that Ariel Henry be prevented from leaving the country “due to serious assassinations” of President Moïse. The assassination case is currently in the hands of Judge Orélien, who is the only competent authority to call witnesses or defendants to testify or to decide who is suspected of the murder. Last week, the same prosecutor sent an “invitation” to Henry to appear on Tuesday to be questioned about the phone calls, a subpoena that was publicly disqualified by Henry himself.
The Haitian authorities have reported that 44 people are in preventive prison for the murder, including 18 Colombians accused of being part of the command that murdered Moise, in addition to 12 policemen who were part of the president’s security body, who did not react to the attack.
Henry on Saturday denounced “diversionary maneuvers” in the investigation of the assassination of President Moise, after being invited to appear in court. “Diversionary maneuvers to create confusion and prevent justice from doing its job calmly will not pass,” said Henry. “The real culprits, the intellectual authors and the sponsors of the heinous assassination of President Jovenel Moise will be found, brought to justice and punished for their crime,” he added.
On Friday night, Bed-Ford Claude, commissioner of the Government of Port-au-Prince – equivalent to the prosecutor – invited Henry to appear before the prosecution on Tuesday. The official maintained that, a few hours after Moise’s murder, Henry had telephone conversations with one of the people actively wanted in the context of the investigation.
Félix Badio, a former director of the anti-corruption unit under the Ministry of Justice, was allegedly geolocated in the district where Moise’s private residence is located during calls made to Ariel Henry at 04H03 and then at 04H20. As a judge was already in charge of the investigation, the prosecutor does not have the power to invite or summon anyone, but he justifies his approach by evoking the “extreme gravity” of this file “for the nation.”
Legally, a prime minister can be heard by a judge only if the president of the republic authorizes it. In his letter, Bed-Ford Claude specified to Henry that his presentation to the prosecution was voluntary, “taking into account the restrictions due to his status as a senior public official.”
The Haitian Office for Citizen Protection declared itself “outraged and stunned” by the revelation of these phone calls. “Ariel Henry must resign immediately and be brought to justice,” Renan Hedouville, who heads that public institution, said in a letter on Saturday.
Haiti’s main political forces agreed on Saturday to give themselves one more year to draft a new Constitution and to organize the elections from which the successor to President Jovenel Moise will emerge. The agreement was signed by the prime minister, Ariel Henry, and the main opposition parties and foresees the holding of elections at the end of 2022 and the inauguration of the new authorities at the beginning of 2023, one year after the previously foreseen deadline. . In this transitional period, power will be exercised by a unity government headed by Henry, which will be “essentially non-partisan” and whose members will be appointed within eight days.
In a ceremony at his official residence, the prime minister described the agreement as “ambitious and promising” and said it represents a “break” with the past. “I am sure that this agreement will allow conducting, in harmony and good understanding, the affairs of the State during the interim period, which I want to be as short as possible,” Henry told the signatories. The common goal, Henry stressed, is “a return to normal functioning” of democratic institutions “with new foundations, in a safe and stable environment.”
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