Haitian Prime Minister, under fire from critics, attacks evidence of leader’s murder
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2021 | 5:50 p.m.
Updated 3 minutes ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – The office of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry released its first public statement on Thursday on evidence authorities say they have phone calls between him and a key suspect in the presidential assassination, claiming that he has received countless calls from people concerned for his safety after the murder.
The office said it was unable to identify everyone who had called him or determine the nature of the conversations, noting that Henry could not take all the calls.
“After an act of such gravity, many people naturally wanted to inquire about his situation,” said the office, referring to the assassination on July 7 of President Jovenel Moïse.
The former chief prosecutor of Port-au-Prince Bed-Ford Claude, who Henry sacked this week, invited the prime minister to meet with him to discuss two calls between him and Joseph Badio that took place just hours after the death of Moses.
Badio previously worked for Haiti’s justice ministry and the government’s anti-corruption unit until he was fired in May amid charges of violating unspecified ethical rules. Police say they are looking for him on charges, including murder.
Claude said evidence shows Badio was near Moses’ home when the calls were made, and on Tuesday, just hours before he was fired, Claude asked the judge in the case to charge Henry.
The prime minister’s office said political interests do not allow anyone to make “serious and unfounded innuendos, let alone attempt to engage someone in popular retaliation.”
He added: “Conversations with people against whom charges are brought can in no way be used to incriminate anyone. “
The office also said that Henry was doing everything possible to identify everyone involved and bring them to justice: “Nothing will distract him from this goal. It is a duty to the memory of the president, his family and the Haitian people.
Moses had chosen Henry as prime minister shortly before he was killed, and he assumed the post a few weeks after the assassination.
Henry’s office released the statement hours after Haiti’s new justice minister vowed to find those responsible for the high-profile killings as he spoke publicly for the first time since he took over from his predecessor, who Henry also fired this week.
Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said he was prioritizing the assassinations of Moïse and Monferrier Dorval, head of the Port-au-Prince Bar, who was killed at his home last August.
Quitel also said he aimed to fight gangs and reduce long pre-trial detention, with thousands languishing in jail for years without a single hearing.
“There is no more room for distraction or diversion, confusion and petty internal quarrels,” he said. “The task is immense.
Quitel succeeds former justice minister Rockefeller Vincent, who Henry sacked a day after sacking the chief prosecutor of Port-au-Prince earlier this week for an indefinite “serious administrative misconduct”.
Quitel only briefly mentioned the murder of Moïse in his speech as he pledged to establish consistency and harmony between Haiti’s judicial and executive powers.
“We are living in difficult times with pressing needs for justice and security,” he said.
Quitel is one of three new officials to take leadership positions in the Haitian government this week. Claude was replaced by prosecutor Frantz Louis Juste, while Renald Lubérice, who was secretary general of the Council of Ministers of Haiti, resigned Wednesday, saying he could not serve under Henry and accused him of obstructing Justice. He was replaced by Josué Pierre Louis.
Abrupt layoffs and resignation have prompted some to question the future of the ruling Tèt Kale party as the investigation into Moïse’s murder continues as Haiti prepares for legislative and presidential elections slated for early November .
“We have the impression that whatever the result of the investigation, it is obviously about a rupture between key personalities”, declared Laurent Dubois, expert in Haiti and professor at Duke University. “It could create cracks for other political actors to settle in.”
Dubois said he wonders if people around Henry will support him or move away from him in the near future, compounding Haiti’s political instability as he not only tries to recover from the assassination , but also of the earthquake of August 14 which killed more than 2,200 people.
“If they feel he’s falling apart, they don’t want to be next to him when it happens,” Dubois said.
Shortly after his resignation, Lubérice, the former secretary general of the council of ministers, helped found a political movement called “Rassemblement des jovenélistes pour la democratie”, which aims to do justice to Moïse. Among the members of the group is Claude Joseph, the former Prime Minister who ruled the country from the assassination until Henry’s installation.
Among those calling for Henry’s resignation is Haiti’s Ombudsman-like Office for Citizen Protection, which has also urged the international community to stop supporting him. However, the small group, made up of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union and representatives of the United Nations and the Organization of States Americans, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying he supported the efforts of Henry and other political leaders to form an inclusive government.