Haiti's chief prosecutor calls for Prime Minister Ariel Henry to be charged over president's killing

Haiti's newly installed Prime Minister Ariel Henry (centre) is now a suspect in the recent slaying of the nation's president, Jovenel Moise. (AP: Joseph Odelyn)

Haiti's chief public prosecutor has asked the judge overseeing the investigation into the July assassination of president Jovenel Moise to charge newly installed Prime Minister Ariel Henry as a suspect, and ordered Migration Services not to let him leave the country.

In a letter to Judge Garry Orelien, prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude said phone records showed that Mr Henry received two phone calls from a key suspect in Moise's killing on the night of July 7.

That suspect — a former justice ministry official whom Mr Henry has publicly defended — has fled the country.

In the letter, Mr Claude said that Mr Henry should be "forbidden from leaving the national territory by air, sea or road due to serious presumption relative to the assassination of the president".

Chenald Augustin — who works in the PM's communications office — said it did not have an immediate comment. The Prime Minister last week dismissed the charges against him as politicking.

Moise was shot dead when assassins stormed his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince, plunging the impoverished Caribbean country deeper into turmoil and a political vacuum.

Jovenel Moise had been governing by decree for more than a year and had faced many calls to step down. (Supplied: AP)

The 53-year-old former provincial businessman had been governing by decree for more than a year after Haiti failed to hold legislative and municipal elections amid a political gridlock and Moise had faced many calls to step down.

Decades of political instability as well as natural catastrophes have plagued Haiti's development.

Its aid-dependent economy is the poorest in the Americas, with more than a third of Haitians facing acute food insecurity and gangs have been turning swaths of the capital into no-go areas.

Calls for PM to step down

On Friday, Mr Claude had invited Mr Henry to meet with him to discuss the alleged phone calls with the suspect, noting that he could only summon the PM on presidential orders, but that the country remained without a president.

Haiti's Office of Citizen Protection demanded on Saturday that Mr Henry step down and hand himself over to the justice system.

Mr Henry retorted on Twitter that "no distraction, invitation, summons, manoeuvre, menace or rearguard action" would distract him from his work.

The Prime Minister announced on Saturday that Haiti's main political forces had reached an agreement to establish a transition government until the holding of presidential elections and a referendum on whether to adopt a new constitution next year.

That agreement establishes a Council of Ministers under Mr Henry's leadership.

A constituent assembly made up of 33 members appointed by institutions and civil society organisations will have three months to prepare the new constitution.

Moise's own attempts at holding elections and a constitutional referendum were attacked for being too partisan. Critics called them veiled attempts at installing a dictatorship.

The president's supporters said he was being punished for going after a corrupt ruling elite and seeking to end undue privileges.

Reuters


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