Widow of slain Haitian president files lawsuit against suspects seeking trial and damages

Attorneys for the widow of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse have filed a lawsuit in Florida against those accused in the assassination

Dnica Coto,Joshua Goodman
Thursday 22 June 2023 16:22 BST
Haiti US Presidential Slaying Lawsuit
Haiti US Presidential Slaying Lawsuit (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Attorneys for the widow of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse filed a lawsuit Thursday in Florida against those accused in his assassination, which is still under investigation.

The lawsuit, which was first shared with The Associated Press, seeks unspecified damages for Moïse’s family and a trial by jury in a push to hold the defendants responsible for the president’s death.

“Whatever assets are out there, we will make sure these people will pay,” attorney Paul Turner told the AP.

The lawsuit was filed nearly two years after the July 7, 2021 assassination of Moïse, who was shot a dozen times at his private home in an attack that also seriously injured his wife, Martine Moïse. More than 40 people have been arrested in the case, including a former Haitian senator, an ex-government official who worked at an anti-corruption agency and 18 former soldiers from Colombia.

Turner said he believes there are more people involved in the presidential assassination who have not been identified.

“We believe there are deep pockets or political power behind this,” he said.

Eleven suspects are being held in U.S. federal prison as Turner lamented that the case is languishing in Haiti, where four judges appointed to oversee the investigation have been dismissed or resigned for personal reasons.

One judge previously told the AP that his family asked him not to take the case because they feared he would be killed. Another judge stepped down after one of his assistants died under murky circumstances.

Turner noted that while the U.S. government has kept him and Moïse’s family abreast of developments in the case, the Haitian government has not shared any information with them, including the inventory of personal assets that belonged to Moïse and his family that local authorities seized after he was killed.

“We would like to see more transparency,” he said.

A spokesperson for Haiti’s Justice Ministry did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The lawsuit filed at a Miami circuit court accuses some of the suspects of causing the president’s death and serious injury to his wife, Martine Moïse, who was shot multiple times.

It also alleges 11 other counts including battery, assault, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, stating that “defendants engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct in conspiring to torture and assassinate President Moise.

“The implausible goal — upon assassinating President Moise in cold blood — was for the co-conspirators to install their own kangaroo government which would then summarily pardon the assassins. Setting aside the sheer insanity of their end game, the assassins succeeded in part,” the lawsuit stated.

Eleven of the 12 people named in the suit remain in U.S. federal prison, except for one who is under house arrest.

Rodolphe Jaar, a Haitian-Chilean businessman who pled guilty to helping Colombian mercenaries obtain weapons, was sentenced to life in prison in early June. He is the first person to be convicted and sentenced in the case that has dragged on in Haiti.

“The family needs closure,” Turner said. “We want every single person who participated in this assassination to be brought to justice.”

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Goodman reported from Miami.

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