Prosecutor seeks to interview Haiti PM in president slaying

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Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during a joint press conference with USAID and SOUTHCOM at the international airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, weeks after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. At left are USAID Administrator Samantha Power and SOUTHCOM Commander Admiral Faller. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s chief public prosecutor invited Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Friday to meet with him next week as part of an ongoing investigation into the slaying of President Jovenel Moïse, noting that Henry spoke with one of the main suspects in the case just hours after the killing.

The carefully worded invitation noted that Henry had multiple phone calls with fugitive Joseph Felix Badio, who once worked for Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and authorities say had a key role leading up to the July 7 killing of the president at his private home.

Bedford Claude, Port-au-Prince’s chief prosecutor, said two of the calls occurred at 4:03 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. on July 7 just hours after the killing. He said evidence shows that Badio was in the vicinity of the president’s home when the calls were made.

Claude told the prime minister that he was requesting a meeting with him to verify the content of those conversations, although he implied it wasn’t mandatory.

“The head of the criminal prosecution would be grateful if you so wish, taking into account the restrictions given your status as a senior state official,” Claude wrote.

He added that the invitation issued to Henry was justified given what he called a “case of extreme gravity for the nation” and a power vacuum that prevented authorities from obtaining prior authorization from a president to request that Henry appear at the public prosecutor’s office.

Claude ended the letter by writing, “Receive, Mister Prime Minister, my highly patriotic greetings.”

Chenal Augustin, who works in the prime minister’s communications office, told The Associated Press that the office would not issue comment on the matter.

Henry previously told a local radio station that he knew Badio and defended him, adding that he didn’t believe Badio was involved because he didn’t have the means.

Maarten Boute, CEO and chairman of Digicel Haiti, told the AP that the company turned over information as requested by judicial authorities but declined further comment, noting that it is confidential.

The invitation sent to Henry comes as authorities seek to arrest additional suspects in the slaying, including Badio. He once worked for Haiti’s Ministry of Justice and joined the government’s anti-corruption unit in 2013. The agency had issued a statement saying Badio was fired in May following “serious breaches” of unspecified ethical rules, adding that it filed a complaint against him.

More than 40 suspects have been arrested in the case, including 18 former Colombian soldiers who recently accused Haitian police of torture. A police spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month, a Haitian judge appointed to oversee the investigation stepped down, citing personal reasons. The move came after one of his assistants died under unclear circumstances. A new judge has been appointed.

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Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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