Former President Jovenel Moïse's coffin during his funeral on Jul. 23, 2021. Photo by Samuel Volcy for The Haitian Times

MIAMI — Mario Palacios, a key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, appeared to a federal court in Miami Jan. 4 and was charged with conspiring to kill or kidnap Moïse outside the United States, according to The New York Times.

Palacios is the first suspect to be charged in the U.S. He was being transported from Jamaica to Colombia on Jan. 3, but during a layover in Panama asked to go to the U.S. instead.

Palacios, a retired Colombian soldier, was allegedly part of a group of South American mercenaries who killed Moïse in his home in Pelerin 5, Port-au-Prince, in July 2021. Former First Lady Martine Moise was also shot but survived. 

The group of mercenaries had been allegedly tasked with kidnapping Moïse, according to the Times report. 

Another suspect who was also arrested said Palacios was at Moïse home family’s during the assassination, according to Jamaican news outlet Jamaica Gleaner. Palacios told Colombian magazine Semana that when he arrived at the Moïse home, the president was already dead. 

Palacios has a pretrial hearing scheduled for later this month. His attorney Alfredo Izaguirre said Palacios will most likely plead not guilty. 

After the assassination, he fled to the Dominican Republic then went on to Jamaica, entering the island illegally. 

Palacios was arrested in Jamaica last October.

Haiti filed two extradition requests for Jamaica to send Palacios back to Haiti, but Jamaica denied both because of lack of evidence.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Mario Palacios may plead guilty. Palacios’ attorney Alfredo Izaguirre said Palacios will most likely plead not guilty.

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