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Journalists stand next to a yellow police cordon near the residence of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise after he was shot dead by unidentified attackers, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 7, 2021. — Reuters pic
Journalists stand next to a yellow police cordon near the residence of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise after he was shot dead by unidentified attackers, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 7, 2021. — Reuters pic

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PORT-AU-PRINCE (Haiti), Aug 14 ― The judge named earlier this week to lead the judicial investigation into the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise said yesterday he would not take on the case.

“We are removing ourselves from the said case for personal reasons and ordering its return to the dean of this court,” judge Mathieu Chanlatte said in a letter to the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance after being named on Monday.

Moise was killed when a hit team burst into the presidential residence on July 7 and shot him dead. His wife Martine was wounded but survived.

He had been ruling the impoverished and disaster-plagued nation by decree, as gang violence spiked and Covid-19 spread.

The head of the National Association of Haitian Magistrates, Jean Wilner Morin, said he was not surprised by Chanlatte’s decision given potential threats to the appointed judge.

“I had said this would be difficult for judge Chanlatte: He still has the same car, he doesn’t have additional security agents in his service,” he told AFP.

“Armed gangs are in the immediate vicinity of the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance, so it is very difficult for any magistrate to carry out this case,” he added.

Minister of Justice and Public Security Rockefeller Vincent has said his ministry would take all measures necessary to guarantee the safety of judges as well as courtroom evidence.

But Wilner Morin said lack of security guarantees was a barrier to progress on the case.

“When a judge is not given the necessary means to deal with such a case, it is blocking the case,” he said.

“When the court where the magistrate’s office is located is not secure and the documents are likely to be stolen, it is blocking the file.”

Police say they have arrested 44 people in connection with the killing, including 12 Haitian police officers, 18 Colombians who were allegedly part of the commando team, and two Americans of Haitian descent.

The head of Moise’s security detail is among those detained in connection with the plot allegedly organized by a group of Haitians with foreign ties.

Police have issued wanted-persons notices for several other people, including a judge from Haiti’s highest court, a former senator and a businessman. ― AFP

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