Colombian man charged over Haiti president Jovenel Moise's murder

Authorities detain retired Colombian soldier over assassination of Jovenel Moise

Activists demand justice for former Haitian president Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated in July 2020. AFP
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US authorities have charged a retired Colombian soldier over the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise last July, Justice Department officials said on Tuesday.

The department said in a statement that Mario Palacios, along with others, “participated in a plot to kidnap or kill the Haitian president".

Mr Palacios was detained at a Panamanian airport late on Monday and extradited to the US.

If convicted, Mr Palacios faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He was scheduled to appear in court later on Tuesday.

US prosecutors said the plot against Moise “initially focused on conducting a kidnapping of the president as part of a purported arrest operation” but it “ultimately resulted in a plot to kill".

Prosecutors alleged in their complaint that “on July 7, 2021, Palacios and others entered the president's residence in Haiti with the intent and purpose of killing President Moise and in fact the president was killed".

Others reportedly involved in the plot were 20 Colombian citizens and a group of dual Haitian-American citizens, the statement said.

Mr Palacios had been on his way to Colombia after being deported by Jamaica for a lack of evidence connecting him to the assassination, but he was arrested during a stopover at Tocumen International Airport in Panama.

After his arrest, Mr Palacios “accepted voluntary extradition, so last night [Monday], he boarded a flight to Miami”, Panama's immigration service head Samira Gozaine said. She added there was an Interpol warrant out for the ex-soldier on “charges of murder and conspiracy to kill".

Moise was shot on July 7 at his home in Port-au-Prince.

Three Colombians were killed by Haitian armed forces responding to the attack and 18 more were detained, alongside two US citizens of Haitian descent.

Dozens of people have since been arrested, but the masterminds behind the attack remain unknown.

The assassination deepened an already difficult situation in Haiti, which is suffering from a lack of security, soaring gang violence and a spate of kidnappings.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has in effect been running the country since Moise's killing, told AFP on Monday that he, too, was the target of an assassination attempt during last weekend's national day celebrations.

Updated: January 05, 2022, 7:26 AM