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Haiti prosecutors seek to interview PM over presidential assassination

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry attends the official memorial services for former President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 20, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Haiti’s chief public prosecutor has invited Prime Minister Ariel Henry to meet with him next week as part of an ongoing investigation into the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise.

In a letter sent on Friday, prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude invited Henry for an interview to explain why he had spoken with one of the main suspects in the targeted killing of the former president at his private residence in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on the night of the crime.

The prosecutor said it was "confirmed" that there had been a number of phone calls between Henry and wanted fugitive Joseph Felix Badio on July 7, three hours after the assassination took place.

Citing the geolocation data of the calls, the prosecutor said Badio — who once worked for Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and authorities allege had a key role leading up to the killing of the president at his home — had been in the vicinity of the neighborhood of the Moise’s residence and the scene of the crime.

In the carefully-worded letter, Claude told the prime minister that he was requesting a meeting with him to verify the content of those conversations, although he implied it was not mandatory.

Stressing that it was an invitation not a summons, Claude said only a president could authorize official summons and since the country was without one, he was instead being “invited” to attend and cooperate.

“The head of the criminal prosecution would be grateful if you could present yourself … to cooperate with Haitian justice if you so wish, taking into account the restrictions given your status as a senior state official,” Claude wrote, adding that the hearing at the Court of First Instance of Port-au-Prince would take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Claude ended the letter by writing, “Receive, Mister Prime Minister, my highly patriotic greetings.”

Haitian police have posted a $60,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Badio or two other suspects wanted in connection with planning the assassination.

Investigators claim Badio, a former Justice Ministry official that joined the government’s anti-corruption unit in 2013, may have ordered Moise's murder.

Haitian authorities say there are 44 people held in custody on suspicion of taking part in Moise's assassination, including 18 Colombians and 12 members of Moise's security detail.

The 53-year-old Haitian president was killed in an armed attack at his private residence in the capital Port-au-Prince by a group of gunmen who spoke Spanish and English.

Moise’s wife was also wounded in the attack and taken to a hospital for treatment.

Police in Haiti said the assassination was carried out by a commando unit of 26 Colombian and two American mercenaries identified as James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both from Florida.

The Pentagon revealed in July that some of the former Colombian servicemen arrested after the assassination had been trained by the US military.

The assassination opened up a political vacuum just as Moise and other civil leaders were preparing for elections and discussing revisions to Haiti’s constitution.

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