A Haitian prosecutor has recommended charges against 70 people in the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Among the former Colombian soldiers and Haitian government officials charged in the case is an unexpected name: former First Lady Martine Moïse, seriously injured in the attack.
A copy of a criminal complaint filed by a prosecutor and submitted to a Haitian court obtained by The New York Times does not accuse her of planning the murder or offer any direct evidence of her involvement.
Instead, it says she and other experts made statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, suggesting they were complicit in the attack, and notes that one of the key suspects in custody in Haiti said Ms. Moïse wanted to take over the presidency.
The complaint provided no further details about Ms. Moses’ declarations.
His lawyer denied the allegations.
“We do not believe that she is or could ever be a suspect in the case,” attorney Paul Turner, who lives in Florida, told the Times. “She was a victim, just like her children who were there and her husband.” Some critics also said they believed the complaint had been tainted by politics.
The accusation against Mr. Moïse’s widow is the most startling detail of the complaint, which is based on interviews with dozens of witnesses and took more than two years to produce.
Under Haiti’s legal system, the prosecutor’s complaint is not binding and only the investigating judge, who did not respond to requests for comment, can issue formal charges.
The complaint was prepared by the public prosecutor of the capital Port-au-Prince, Edler Guillaume, political appointee of the current government.
Some legal analysts said the complaint raised concerns that the country’s justice system was being weaponized to divert attention from allegations that some senior government officials, including the prime minister, were implicated in the assassination.
Records show that the prime minister, Ariel Henry, had spoken by telephone to a key conspirator shortly before and after the murder. Mr Henry has denied any involvement in the assassination.
Ms. Moïse has long criticized the investigation, saying Haitian officials have shown little interest in unmasking the masterminds of the crime.
Dan Foote, a former U.S. special envoy to Haiti, called the complaint “another bad act” in the aftermath of the assassination. “The fact that this government is leading the investigation is bad enough,” Foote said. “It’s not even close to independence.”
A separate investigation in the United States led to federal charges against 11 men accused of conspiring to kill Mr. Moïse. Five men have pleaded guilty, and the former first lady is expected to testify at the trial for the remaining defendants, which will take place this year in South Florida.
Mr. Moïse, 53, was killed on July 7, 2021, when 20 Colombian commandos, hired by a Miami-area security company, raided the president’s home outside the Haitian capital in the dead of night, it showed the Haitian investigation.
Its security guards were largely absent or offered little or no resistance, raising suspicions that the assassination had been an inside job. The president and his wife were killed as gunmen ransacked their home, apparently looking for cash and documents.
Since Moïse was killed, Haiti has descended into violence and political upheaval. Gangs took control of much of the capital, killing and kidnapping thousands of people, while elections to allow voters to select Moïse’s replacement were not held.
A Kenyan-led multinational deployment aimed at helping protect Haiti was blocked by a Kenyan court last month, but local officials have said they intend to send a force despite the legal ruling.
The investigating judge into Moïse’s murder, Walther Voltaire, is expected to issue a final indictment this month. He could follow Mr. Guillaume’s recommendations or choose to drop or add charges.
“The case is moving forward with vigor,” Guillaume said, evolving to comment further.
Lawyers for several defendants in the Miami federal case said none of the evidence they provided suggested the U.S. Justice Department believed Ms. Moïse played a role in her husband’s death.
Justice Department officials declined to comment.
Mr. Turner, Madam… Moïse’s lawyer said his client had given Haitian investigators an initial statement but was unwilling to travel to Haiti for further interviews because of the country’s lack of security.
Federal prosecutors, she added, told her not to talk about the killing until she testified in the Florida case.
An arrest warrant ordering Ms. Moise’s request to appear for questioning in Haiti, issued when a person fails to comply with a previous summons, was signed in October and made public last week.
Mr. Turner said it is unlikely she has ever been served with a subpoena from Haiti because she is in hiding and her current whereabouts are unknown to all but a few people.
Turner, who represents other Haitians subpoenaed in the assassination investigation, said prosecutors were unwilling to accommodate witnesses who feared traveling to Haiti by allowing them to give statements in the United States or via video conference.
Haitian authorities have already arrested 44 people linked to the crime, including 20 Colombians, 19 Haitian law enforcement officers, including three heads of presidential security. They are all among the 70 people named in the prosecutor’s complaint.
None of the jailed defendants have been officially charged, suggesting that politics played a role in the case, said Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haitia left-wing, human rights advocacy group.
“It’s a system that’s very susceptible to political manipulation,” Concannon said. “There is a prime minister who has already fired a previous prosecutor who asked too many embarrassing questions.”
The prime minister’s office said Mr Henry had no control over the investigators, who insisted they were operating independently.
“The prime minister has no direct relationship with the investigating judge, nor does he control him,” said Jean-Junior Joseph, Henry’s spokesman. “The judge remains free to issue his order in accordance with the law and his conscience.”
Claude Joseph, a former Haitian prime minister who is also named in the prosecutor’s complaint as among those considered “accomplices” in Moïse’s murder, said the charges point to an abuse of the country’s justice system.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Why would Martine Moïse have her husband killed in a huge plot involving 20 former Colombian soldiers when they lived together and could have found a million easier ways to get rid of him if she wanted?”
Some of the evidence cited in the prosecutor’s criminal complaint is attributed to Joseph Félix Badio, a former military officer who told authorities that Claude Joseph and Mme. Moïse has discussed taking over the presidency from him. Claude Joseph denies that any such conversation took place.
Mr. Badio, named in the complaint as one of the main organizers of the assassination, was arrested in October outside a supermarket after more than two years on the run. He said that he had nothing to do with the president’s murder.
Maria Abi-Habib contributed reporting from Mexico City.