Who Killed President Jovenel Moise? Probing Haiti Officials Receive Death Notes

Published July 27th, 2021 - 12:08 GMT
Haitian president was killed earlier this month.
Priests pray near the casket of slain President Jovenel Moïse at his funeral on July 23, 2021, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Moïse, 53, was shot dead in his home in the early hours of July 7. Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP
Haitian president Jovenel Moise was shot dead in his bedroom early on July 7

It is a tale that seems to be plucked from the pages of a crime thriller: A president gunned down in his bedroom in the dead of night by a highly-trained hit squad on the orders of an unidentified mastermind. 

But as investigators try to uncover the truth of what happened in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on the morning of July 7, the story that emerges is stranger than even the best-written whodunnit.

Judges and their clerks say they have been receiving highly-specific death threats - calls and texts delivered while they are at crime scenes telling them to 'get ready for a bullet in your head' and 'I know your every move'.

They add that key evidence has either disappeared, been destroyed, or they have been blocked from accessing it as fears grow that the probe is being hampered from within - though nobody is willing to say by whom.

Meanwhile key questions about the raid that killed President Jovenel Moise and badly wounded his wife Martine remain unanswered, almost three weeks on - most pressingly: Who wanted him dead, and why? 

Disturbing new details about the investigation have been revealed by CNN and contained within a trove of documents put together by judges who - under Haiti's legal system - are charged with investigating crimes and gathering evidence.

The documents detail death threats that have been sent to the judges and their clerks, warning them to stop their investigations, change testimony, or insert names into reports that form the official body of evidence.

In one incident, clerk Marcelin Valentin reported getting a threatening phone call on July 9 while on a crime scene inspecting the corpses of two prime suspects.

According to CNN, the caller demanded information about the investigation and threatened Valentin with death if he refused to add certain names to his report or to modify witness statements.

A week later, Valentin received a text message saying 'I see your every move' while again threatening him, this time to remove names from his reports.

Carl Henry Destin, an investigating judge who was first at the scene of Moise's murder after the police had arrived, said he is in hiding because similar threats have been sent to him and his clerks.

Destin also spoke of barriers to his investigation that go beyond death threats - evidence that he claims he has been blocked from seeing, witnesses he has not been allowed to interview, and crime scenes that have been tampered with.

He recalled being summoned to Moise's home on the night of the shooting around 1am, but was told to wait outside for almost nine hours before finally being allowed in to gather evidence and start his investigation.

Once inside, Destin said that anybody who might have actually witnessed the shooting - such as Moise's presidential guards - were long gone.

To this day, he claims, he has only been allowed to interview people with second-hand knowledge of the events, including the head of presidential security who was outside the property at the time.

Meanwhile other sources close to the investigation said police have refused to give them access to CCTV footage captured by cameras around Moise's home.

Judges and clerks also say they have been blocked from interviewing more than two dozen suspects - including police officers - who have now been detained for two weeks, or collecting the testimony of local officers.

State prosecutor Bedford Claude, who has worked closely with police, told CNN that officers have taken that testimony and - while he hasn't seen it - is satisfied the interviewing officers have done their job.

He also claimed to have received death threats himself, though did not show CNN evidence of that.

Documents also reveal that judicial officials called to inspect the scene where two prime suspects in the killing were shot dead found their bodies had been moved.

Several cars in the area which are thought to have belonged to the suspects were also burned, potentially destroying key evidence - something that police blamed on 'angry locals'.

While incompetence and problems inherent in Haiti's under-funded justice system cannot be ruled out as causes, analysts told CNN, taken together the incidents also point towards deliberate evidence-tampering.

However, none of those interviewed by the news channel were willing to say whether they thought the incidents were deliberate or point fingers at any suspects.  

Moise was killed amid a power-struggle with his political rivals over when exactly his presidential term should end and who would succeed him when it did.

The 53-year-old had already claimed to have survived one assassination attempt at the beginning of the year, which he described at the time as a 'coup'.

Investigators say heavily-armed raiders broke into Moise's home around 1am before shooting him dead in his bedroom and badly wounding wife Martine before fleeing in vehicles and on foot.

What followed were a series of gun battles and chases around Port-au-Prince that ended with several suspects being shot dead and the arrest of 20 more - 18 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans, who claim to have acted as translators.

Also under arrest are 24 Haitian police officers and some high-ranking security officials, accused of taking part in the plot - though their exact role has not been made clear.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry - Moise's appointed successor who has been sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister following his death - has promised swift retribution for the President's killers.

On Monday, authorities announced that Jean Laguel Civil - former head of Moise's security - had also been arrested, though it is not clear if he has been charged.

 Meanwhile authorities issued a warrant for Wendelle Coq Thelot, a judge for the country's highest court who had been fired by Moise.

Police are still looking for various other suspects, including a former rebel leader and an ex-Haitian senator. 

Police chief Leon Charles has said that investigations into who financed the operation are ongoing, saying the FBI and Interpol are helping track down American citizens who he believes are responsible.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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