haitian prime minister
Prime Minister Ariel Henry is a suspect in the July 7 assassination of Jovenel Moise.=

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.

The chief prosecutor in charge of investigating of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has called for charges against Haitian Prime Minister and de facto leader Ariel Henry for his alleged role in the killing. 

Prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude had invited Henry to an interview on Tuesday morning to probe the prime minister’s connection to a major suspect in the assassination. The meeting was scheduled to take place at the Court of First Instance, usually used for preliminary questioning of suspects who have been arrested.

After the hearing, the Associated Press reported Claude’s request for charges. Claude also banned Henry from leaving Haiti. 

“There are enough compromising elements … to prosecute Henry and ask for his outright indictment,” Claude wrote

A travel prohibition order signed by Claude and addressed to Haiti’s immigration director Joseph Cianciulli was leaked to social media on Sept. 14. 

Henry “is prohibited from leaving by air, sea and land the national territory for serious presumptions of assassination of the President of the Republic Mr. Jovenel Moise,” read the document. 

Prime Minister Henry did not immediately make a public comment on the pending charges or his travel ban. 

As chief prosecutor of the Moïse investigation, Claude sought to question Henry over multiple calls the prime minister made on the morning of July 7 to Joseph Felix Badio, a former justice ministry official and major suspect in the assassination who is still at large. 

Starting shortly after 4 a.m. on July 7, Henry made two calls to Badio, who was in the vicinity of the president’s home outside Port-au-Prince at the time.

More than 40 suspects are in custody over the assassination, including Haitian former law enforcement officials and 18 Colombian former soldiers, the Associated Press has reported. 
Two days before his July assassination, Moise nominated Henry to fill the prime minister role.

Questions of political motivation

More than 40 suspects are in custody over the assassination, including Haitian former law enforcement officials and 18 Colombian former soldiers, the Associated Press has reported. 

moise investigation Haiti
Graphic by Leonardo March

Two days before his July assassination, Moïse nominated Henry to fill the prime minister role. Some had identified him as a potential suspect in the days following the murder, when Henry was among three Haitian politicians claiming a right to lead Haiti. Later in July, the international community, led by the Core Group and United Nations, recognized Henry as Haiti’s leader.

After the request for charges against Henry on Sept. 14, a former Haitian judge said that Claude lacks the authority to request public action against Henry, denouncing the process as politically motivated. 

“The real culprits, the intellectual authors and co-author and sponsor of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse will be found and brought to justice and punished for their crimes,” Henry said on Sept. 11. 

Francois Pierre-Louis, a former Haitian government official and Queens College political science professor, also said he suspected the request for legal action against Henry was politically motivated. 

Seen as an ally of the opposition, Henry was previously a member of multiple social democratic political parties, as well as INITE, formed by supporters of former president Rene Preval. On Sept. 11, Henry signed a political agreement for “peaceful and effective governance” with opposition parties. 

At the same time, the PHTK political party of former president Moïse is jockeying for power in the upcoming elections, currently scheduled for November, said Pierre-Louis. 

“They’re not about giving any concessions,” Pierre-Louis said, in reference to PHTK. “They’re just testing their power to see how far they can go, and whether the international community will allow them to bully Henry.”

Still, Henry’s July 7 calls to Badio are “puzzling” and something that the prime minister should immediately address, said University of Virginia political science professor Robert Fatton. Fatton also said the timing of the prosecutor’s request for charges is suspicious, in the wake of the prime minister’s agreement with the opposition. Under the agreement, elections could be delayed until end-of-year 2022. 

“That was going to give him really significant power,” said Fatton, referring to the agreement. “There is a power struggle, it’s clear that you have people who [were] very close with Jovenel who don’t like, for all kinds of reasons, Ariel Henry.”

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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