Another suspect in Jovenel Moise assassination has been arrested

Haiti police display some of the weapons they say they took from men who were involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Jacqueline Charles/Miami Herald/TNS

A key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise has been arrested, Haiti’s foreign minister confirmed to the Miami Herald.

Samir Handal was arrested in Turkey on Sunday night after arriving on a Turkish Airlines flight, Haiti Foreign Affairs Minister Claude Joseph said. Handal had left for Turkey from Miami, where he had been hiding out since fleeing Haiti after the July 7 assassination of Moise.

He is the second suspect to be arrested in the past month. Mario Palacios Palacios, a former Colombian military officer, was arrested in Kingston, Jamaica, last month after surrendering. Palacios remains in custody in Jamaica, despite a request from Joseph for his extradition to Haiti.

Jamaica doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Haiti, which means that Palacios could soon find himself back in Colombia under a deportation order from a Jamaican judge, who found him guilty of illegally entering the country, according to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

In addition to Jamaica, Joseph has also written to Colombia’s foreign minister and vice president to seek her cooperation with having Palacios sent to Haiti, where 18 other former Colombian military soldiers are jailed and accused of killing Moise.

The case, which has been muddled by death threats, political interference and procedural breaches, remains in the hands of a Haitian investigative judge, who has yet to bring formal charges in the case.

Handal, a builder and businessman in Haiti, has been linked to Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 62, a Haitian doctor and South Florida resident, considered by Haitian authorities to be one of the alleged “intellectual authors” of the still unsolved assassination.

Sanon, who once filed bankruptcy and had political ambitious to replace Moise as provisional leader of Haiti, has denied any involvement in Moise’s death despite being linked to a Miami-area security firm that recruited the Colombian mercenaries and two Haitian Americans who claimed to have been working as translators. The latter, along with some of the soldiers, have said they were at the president’s private residence on July 7 to arrest him and install a new president -- not to kill him.

During initial questioning by police, Sanon said he heard about the president’s killing on the radio. His arrest came two days after Moise’s murder, and occurred at a home that belonged to Handal. The home at Delmas 60 was one of the places private meetings were held in the months prior to the president’s death, according to a report by the National Human Rights Defense Network.

A search of the residence by police, revealed several personal items of Handal’s including three Palestinian passports bearing his name, and a checkbook, Haiti National Police said in a 124-page summary of their own investigation report of the murder.

Handal’s driver later told police that he had driven his boss to the airport of July 9 after receiving a call from him to wait for him near the Ministry of Planning in Port-au-Prince to accompany him to the Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

In its report, the National Human Rights Defense Network said that Handal was escorted to the airport by Haitian national police officers.

In total, 44 people have been arrested in connection with the crime, including the leaders of Moise’s security team, the Colombian mercenaries and three Haitian Americans, including Sanon. Several others remain at large and are the subjects of arrest warrants. They include Joseph Felix Badio, a former government functionary; Ashkard Pierre, a former diplomat; Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug trafficker and ex-Haitian Sen. John Joel Joseph, who also goes by Joseph Joel John.

Moise, 53, was shot multiple times and “severely beaten,” the Haiti police investigation report revealed. His wife, Martine Moise, was seriously injured.

As automatic gunfire rang out the night of his murder and grenades dropped from drones during a span of 30 to 45 minutes, the president frantically called for reinforcements, alerting several police officials that his life was in danger. “The President’s appeals for help, addressed to those in charge of the presidential security structure, were in vain,” police said in the report.

Joseph, the foreign minister, said Haitian authorities were alerted on Sunday about Handal traveling and asked for Turkey’s cooperation. The country’s foreign ministry was provided with a copy of Handal’s arrest warrant.

There was also an Interpol request, though it didn’t become active until Sunday. Turkey was also provided with the confirmation number of the Interpol Red notice, Joseph said.

“This is a huge step in the investigation,” Joseph said. “I myself am more than determined do justice to the president and make sure that it’s rendered to his allies, his family and more importantly, the country.

“When we render justice to the president we render it to the whole nation,” he added.

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