Haiti PM sacks prosecutor who accused him of links to president's murder

Port-au-Prince (AFP) –


Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Tuesday sacked his top prosecutor, who was seeking charges against the premier over the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Henry's decision to fire Bed-Ford Claude came hours after the prosecutor asked the judge investigating Moise's murder to charge the prime minister with involvement in the case.

"I have the pleasure of informing you that it was decided to terminate your post," the prime minister said in a publicly distributed letter.

Claude, who was the government commissioner in Port-au-Prince -- the equivalent of a federal prosecutor -- had made the request due to alleged phone calls Henry made with one of the main suspects in the hours after the killing.

"There are sufficient compromising elements that form (my) conviction on the appropriateness of prosecuting Mr. Henry and requesting his outright indictment," wrote Claude in an official letter addressed to a Port-au-Prince court.

In a second letter, sent to the director of migration administration, Claude requested Henry be banned from leaving the island nation "for serious presumptions of assassination of the President of the Republic."

Moise, a politically and publicly controversial figure, was killed overnight from July 6 to 7 when an armed group burst into his private residence in the Haitian capital.

Henry had already been asked to appear for questioning in the case about the alleged conversations he had just a few hours after Moise's murder, with a former government official wanted in connection with the killing.

- 'Diversionary tactics' -

Police are still searching for the former official, Joseph Felix Badio, who worked in the justice ministry's anti-corruption unit.

Badio's phone was allegedly tracked to the area near Moise's residence when Badio called Henry twice in the early hours of July 7, after the president was shot dead by gunmen.

In his letter to the judge, Claude said the calls lasted a total of seven minutes. He also noted a government official tweeted last month Henry claimed he never spoke with Badio.

Henry was named by Moise as prime minister days before the president's death and was sworn in on July 20, pledging to improve the country's dire security situation and to organize long-delayed elections.

A prime minister legally cannot be questioned unless the president authorizes it, but in the wake of Moise's slaying, Haiti does not have a president.

So far, 44 people -- including 18 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent -- have been arrested in connection with the inquiry into the assassination. None of the president's security guards were injured in the attack.

Henry on Saturday slammed the earlier request for him to be questioned, saying: "These diversionary tactics, designed to create confusion and prevent justice from calmly running its course, will not stand."

"Those who are truly guilty, the masterminds of the odious assassination of president Jovenel Moise and those who ordered it, will be found, brought to justice and punished for their actions."