Ex-Haiti President Michel Martelly meets with judge investigating murder of his successor

Former Haitian President Michel Martelly appeared Tuesday before the Haiti judge investigating the assassination of his hand-picked successor, Jovenel Moïse.

Martelly, who lives in Miami and flew to Port-au-Prince on Monday, arrived at the judge’s chamber in Petionville at around 10 a.m. Tuesday in a light gray SUV. He was accompanied by security and a group of supporters. More than two hours later, he was still inside the chambers answering questions while outside a crowd that included a carnival band had gathered, waiting to celebrate his exit.

Among those who defended the former president is Reynold Georges, a prominent lawyer, who is representing one of the accused policemen in the assassination case, Divisional Police Commissioner Jean Laguel Civil, one of the police officials called by Moïse for help before he was shot to death. Professing his own client’s innocence, Georges said he came to support Martelly because “he’s a friend.”

Magalie Habitant, a former official in Moïse’s government who has been publicly accused of having close gang ties, said everyone who came out to support Martelly came on their own initiative.

“If President Martelly had asked people to come, there wouldn’t be anywhere to hold them, because he doesn’t want that,” she said.

Martelly is among several high-profile Haitian politicians and personalities Investigative Judge Walther Wesser Voltaire has invited in recent months to appear before him for questioning about the still unsolved slaying. Though there have been questions about what Martelly knew about the murder plot and the relationship of some of the suspects he has not officially been named a suspect either by Haitian authorities or U.S. investigators. The United States has a parallel investigation into the July7, 2021 slaying that left Moïse with a dozen gunshots and his wife, Martine Moïse, seriously injured.

Over the past year, U.S. authorities in Miami have filed charges against 11 defendants with conspiring to kill Moïse or with playing a supporting role. They include three Haitian Americans and a retired Colombian military officer who were brought to the United States from Haiti earlier this year to stand trial.

Two of the defendants — Haitian businessman Rodolphe Jaar and retired Colombian army officer Germán Alejandro Rivera Garcia, aka “Colonel Mike” — have pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to kill Moïse, providing that support, and conspiring to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States. Jaar was sentenced to life in prison and Rivera is awaiting sentencing. He also faces up to life in prison on each of the counts.

In Haiti, the investigation has moved at a much slower pace. It has been stymied by fears of judges to take on the case— Voltaire is the fifth judge assigned to the investigation — and the lack of cooperation from jailed suspects. In all, more than 40 suspects, including members of the presidential guard and former members of Colombia’s military, were arrested in Haiti and accused of assassinating Moïse at his private residence in the hills above Haiti’s capital.

In late August, Voltaire began interrogating 17 remaining Colombian suspects, more than two years after they were arrested. It was the first time the suspects had agreed to go before a Haitian judge and answer questions, after they were originally interrogated by Haitian and Colombian police after their arrest in Port-au-Prince. The men, all with military experience, are accused of being part of the group that assassinated Moïse.

Milena Carmona, whose husband, Second Lieutenant Jheyner Alberto Carmona Flórez, is imprisoned in Port-au-Prince, said the men are being kept in “terrible conditions.”

“We haven’t been able to communicate with them for two years. They have been denied their rights to speak with their family. But we know that they are in terrible conditions because one of the lawyers that a group of families hired in October of last year managed to get in, and she saw them just for a few minutes,” Carmona said.

When the lawyer saw the men, Carmona said, “they were not in good shape, they were very thin, they were sick, they went through a very bad outbreak of cholera, and that had affected them.”

She insists that men were tortured after their arrest and their injuries were never treated. Haitian authorities have denied torturing the suspects.

Miami Herald reporter Jay Weaver contributed to this story.