‘There’s no progress, no will to find the truth,’ terrified member of team investigating death of president killed and his wife injured after gunmen stormed their home on July 7
Leaked documents reveal death threats and roadblocks in Haiti assassination investigation, who have been provided with no protection from external pressure
Judge and two court workers investigation assassination of president claim they ‘received death threats for refusing to tamper with evidence in president’s assassination’
Sample of anonymous death threats sent to investigators to coerce them to pad the list of suspects with supplied names ‘
Workers said their complaints were ignored and promised protection did not arrive
They described receiving anonymous visits and messages pressuring them to add the names of prominent individuals to suspects’ statements
Insiders say the investigation into President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7 has been plagued with procedural violations from the start
Nearly 50 of people have been detained but so far no one has been charged
A Haitian judge and two court workers have spoken of receiving death threats after refusing to tamper with evidence in the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Moïse, 53, was killed on July 7 after gunmen stormed his suburban Port-au-Prince home, shooting him 12 times and seriously injuring his wife. Dozens of suspects have been arrested but, so far, none have been charged or brought to court.
The New York Times reported that justice of the peace Carl Henry Destin and clerks Marcelin Valentin and Waky Philostene have gone into hiding with a stack of legal documents related to the investigation after being threatened. They told the paper that authorities had ignored their requests for help after anonymous callers and visitors began harassing them in an attempt to pressure them into altering the sworn statements of witnesses.
If they refused, they were warned to ‘expect a bullet in your head,’ the New York Times reported.
‘There are great interests at play that are not interested in solving this case,’ Valentin told the paper.
‘There’s no progress, no will to find the truth.’
Jovenel Moïse’s killing threw a country already rattled by years of mass protests against corruption, rising inflation and poor living conditions into further disarray.
While the Caribbean island’s acting president has vowed to deliver justice for the killing, some fear Moïse’s death will remain shrouded in secrecy.
Valentin and Philostene told The New York Times that they saw a number of violations of official procedure while accompanying judges to the president’s home and those of the suspects.
They said police moved the bodies of the suspected attackers, removed some of the evidence and denied them access to the crime scene for several hours.
Valentin told the paper that shortly after witnessing the detained suspects’ first interrogations and recording their statements, he received a call from Moïse’s security chief, Jean Laguel Civil, asking what had been said.
Hours later, he said a man he did not know turned up at his office and demanded Valentin add the names of a prominent businessman, and a well-known politician to the suspects’ statements.
Valentin said that after he refused to do so he began receiving death threats.
A New York paper cited a July 16 text message quoted in a copy of a formal complaint filed by Valentin with the prosecutor’s office as reading: ‘Clerk, you can expect a bullet in your head. We ordered you to do something, and you’re doing jack all.’
In one instance Valentin received a phone from a caller speaking in rapid-fire French – “I see you keep going on searches in the president’s case, they told you to take out two names and you refuse. I am calling you and you refuse but I know your every move.”
Philostene said he received similar threats from the same phone number at roughly the same time as his colleague Valentin. Civil was arrested on July 26 in connection with the investigation into Moïse’s death.
In a story broken by New York Times, the two clerks say their complaints were ignored and that a promised armed escort never arrived.
Carl Henry Destin, the investigative judge, claims he had also been pressured to change statements and threatened with death if he did not obey.
The team that examined the bodies of the slain president and of the mercenaries who are accused of conspiring to kill him are now ‘in hiding, changing their location every few hours, along with the legal documents that could determine the fate of Haiti’s most important trial in decades.’
CNN reports that along with death threats, the Haitian investigators have also described a series of unusual roadblocks thrown at them including difficulty in accessing crime scenes, witnesses and evidence.
Sources say official accounts released to the investigation don’t seem to add up. With obvious holes in the information provided, including the still-unknown contents of CCTV footage from the president’s residence on the night of the killing, and the testimonies of over 20 detained foreign suspects and two dozen local police officers.
Police crime scene protocol in Haiti, typically has cops secure the area and maintain order, while justices of the peace perform the initial investigation, document the scene and take witness testimony to create the official record of evidence.
However, sources close to this high level probe have described confusing lapses in protocol that resulted in the omission of key pieces of information from such judicial investigators’.
Judicial investigators have been given the run-around on multiple occasions when they attempted to watch the CCTV footage, which is still in the custody of police, CNN reports
Although dozens of suspects have been arrested, so far, no one have been charged or brought to court, even with the much hyped parade of the captured Colombian and Haitian-American mercenaries before the international media in Port-au-Prince on July 8, along with weapons and equipment allegedly used in the attack
On Jul 20, Haitian police chief Léon Charles announced four more formal arrests in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
At least three of the arrests are police officers whose ranks Charles did not disclose.
“There was infiltration of the police,” he said.
To date four police officers have been arrested in connection with the assassination
Haitians held official ceremonies on July 20 to honor Jovenel Moïse while preparing to install a new interim leader while arresting the police officers implicated in the killing.
Moïse was shot multiple times and his wife was seriously wounded, and while officials have arrested at least 44 people in the case, it remains unclear who ultimately was behind the attack.
Authorities earlier said they had detained and isolated, but not formally arrested, several police officials as they tried to determine how the attackers were able to breach the president’s security perimeter without any of his guards being injured.
The police chief said in addition to the new arrests, seven high-ranking police officials, including those with the president’s security detail, had earlier been placed in isolation.
However, they are not formally considered suspects.
Making the announcement on July 20, Chief Charles said a total of 26 suspects had been arrested, including 18 Colombians, six Haitians and three Haitian-Americans.
These moves have not appeased the supporters of the assassinated president.
During the funeral held three days later in the Moïse family compound just outside the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, the tensions that had rocked the streets the afternoon threatened to engulf the ceremony. The night before, Cap-Haïtien burned with anger and frustration, exposing deep-seated centuries old divisions in Haitian society.
The gruesome execution of Moïse, who is originally from the north, in far away in Port-au-Prince inflamed old divisions between the less developed north and the country’s capital and economic center. It also deepened the rifts between the country’s small elite, typically the descendants of typically lighter-skinned Blacks who were free before the revolution, and its destitute dark-skinned majority.
On the eve of the funeral the city’s streets billowed with the black smoke of burning tires, a common form of protest in a country split by geography, wealth and power. Large crowds of demonstrators ran through the narrow colonial streets, chanting, “They killed Jovenel, and the police were there!”
Angry residents tried to block the arrival of mourners from the country’s south, throwing a concrete block at the lead car of a motorcade that had navigated through the obstacle course of fire, before dragging a concrete telephone pole across a road.
On the day lined up supporters of the assassinated leader stood by the entrance to the funeral and yelled “Justice for Jovenel!” at arriving politicians.
When Haiti’s National Police Chief, Léon Charles, arrived, the crowd surged around him and erupted into shouting and finger pointing. As he passed the grandstand of invited guests, many there also jumped to their feet to shout their displeasure.
“He killed the president!” yelled one woman, adding she believed Moïse had telephoned the police chief while assassins attacked his home but that Charles had not sent police officers to defend him. “Where were the security guards?” she asked.
Others were angry that the investigation into his assassination had not been completed. with shuts of “They are burying him surrounded by his assassins!” directed at the grandstand of diplomats and Haitian politicians where Chief Charles was setting.
When the widow Martine Moïse, arrived dressed in black with a large black hat and a mask with a photo of her husband affixed to it, the crowd surged around her, singing “arrest them, arrest them.”
The former first lady did not pull any punches either, in her address. “Is it a crime to want to free the state from the clutches of the corrupt oligarchs?” she said, standing at the podium with her three children surrounding her.
“The raptors are still running the streets with their bloody claws,” she said. “They are still looking for prey. The are not even hiding. They are there watching me and listening to us, hoping to scare me. Their thirst for blood has not been quenched yet,” she said at the podium.
Following the funeral ceremony, Cap-Haïtien seemed to descend into chaos and lawlessness. Main roads in the city were clogged with burning piles of tires and barricades. Roaming packs of men, some masked and armed, stopped motorcyclists and robbed them. Businesses were shuttered, as at least one was looted.
But it was clear even before the funeral that deep divisions would shape and possibly subvert what many hoped would be a venue for reconciliation.
The new government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, was installed in the capital last week, and its leaders vowed to get to the bottom of the assassination and to build consensus among the country’s political factions and civic groups.
Road blocks to swift conclusion of the case is exacerbated by the fact that Haiti’s legal system has long been plagued by corruption. Investigation into the Jovenel Moise assassination was crippled at the onset by procedural violations, according to insiders
Court documents show that two former soldiers from Colombia killed after the assassination had around $42,000 in cash on or near them when they died. In later police reports, the money reportedly, is absent from lists of evidence found at the scene.
44 people have been detained, including 18 former Colombian commandos and numerous members of Moïse’s security team, and investigators are seeking several more. So far, no one has been charged or appeared in court despite Haitian law requiring suspects be charged within 48 hours or released. Furthermore, many of the 44 detainees claim they have been denied legal counsel, other have claimed they were physically tortured to extract confessions.
Creating further skepticism for the process, investigators from Interpol, and U.S. and Colombian agencies have struggled to gain access to suspects and evidence, despite direct appeals for assistance to the caretaker government.
A key player in general acceptance of future verdicts, former First Lady Martine Moïse, does not believe the suspects in custody had the resources to organize or execute the plot as described by Haitian and Colombian authorities.
The plan, which authorities said began in Haiti and Florida, would have involved flying in the highly trained former commandos from Colombia.
‘What really interests me is that we catch the person who gave the order,’ said the widow.
‘It’s about finding the people who paid the money,’ she stresses.