Former Haitian Lawmaker Charged Over President’s Assassination

Former Haitian Lawmaker Charged Over President’s Assassination
A person holds a photo of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise during his memorial ceremony at the National Pantheon Museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 20, 2021. (Matias Delacroix/AP Photo)
Naveen Athrappully

A form Haitian lawmaker has been criminally charged in the United States for his involvement in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, becoming the third man to be arrested and charged for involvement in the death.

Joseph Joel John, 51, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis from the Southern District of Florida on May 9 after being extradited from Jamaica.

“John is charged with conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending that such material support would be used to prepare for or carry out the conspiracy to kill or kidnap,” a May 9 press release by the Department of Justice said.

“While the plot initially focused on conducting a kidnapping of the Haitian President as part of a purported arrest operation, it ultimately resulted in a plot to kill the President,” the release stated. Two other men allegedly involved in the assassination—Rodolphe Jaar, 49, and Mario Antonio Palacios, 43—were arrested earlier this year.

According to the complaint, John and a group of about 20 Colombian citizens and a number of dual Haitian–American citizens were allegedly involved in the plot to kill Moise. John is said to have been present when co-conspirator No. 1 secured a signature from a former judge “on a written request for assistance to further the arrest and imprisonment” of the Haitian president, as well as providing immunity to these actions.

On June 28, 2021, co-conspirator No. 1, a Haitian–American dual citizen, is said to have traveled to the United States and provided other individuals with the document. He then flew back to Haiti on July 1 to take part in the assassination, federal authorities said.

On July 7, several co-conspirators allegedly entered the president’s residence and killed him. Co-conspirator No. 1 was eventually arrested and remains in the custody of Haitian officials.

John is alleged to have aided in obtaining the vehicles and making an attempt to secure firearms for the operation. He is also said to have attended a meeting with certain co-conspirators on July 6, after which many of them took part in the assassination mission, authorities said.

John was arrested in Jamaica, with the Minister of Justice granting the United States' extradition request on April 28. He is currently in the custody of U.S. law enforcement. If found guilty of charges, the former lawmaker could end up spending life in prison.

Judicial proceedings related to the case have stalled in Haiti as four judges have quit the case over concerns for personal security after receiving death threats.

In February 2022, CNN published the results of an investigation connecting current Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to Moise’s assassination. CNN's claims attracted criticism from the country’s administration.

“These desperate maneuvers constitute a diversion serving to confuse the tracks of the investigation, further weaken the security situation and further destabilize the country, thus aggravating the suffering of the population,” Haitian Foriegn Minister Jean Victor said through a diplomatic letter, according to CNN.
Reuters contributed to this report.