Authorities in Haiti on Thursday forcefully pushed back against reports that current government officials were involved in the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, calling them “a lie.”
Léon Charles, head of Haiti’s National Police, denied a report from Caracol news, a Colombian-based private TV station, that claimed interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph was the mastermind of the July 7 killing.
“The police warns of all propaganda creating a diversion,” he said, adding that police have no evidence to support those claims.
Haitian authorities have otherwise not been very forthcoming with information about who might have been behind the killing, suggesting that media reports implicating current officials had struck a nerve in the government.
Charles also said the head of Moïse’s security detail, Dimitri Hérard, had been removed from his post and placed in isolated detention after officials interrogated him. Police had announced his detention in recent days. Charles said authorities will meet with him a third time before deciding the next steps.
Hérard has not officially been named as a suspect in the investigation, but many Haitians have questioned how attackers could have invaded the president’s house and killed him with no injuries among those assigned to protect him.
The press conference was held a day after the Colombian TV station aired a report it said was based on information from FBI sources and Haitian authorities as well as telephone calls, pictures and testimony from those accused of participating in the plot.
“I’m issuing a formal denial to these allegations,” Charles said, calling them “a lie.”
Joseph, the interim prime minister, was about to be replaced when the assassination occurred. Moïse had named him to the post in April following the resignation of Joseph Jouthe, who held the post for just over a year.
Two days before the assassination, Moïse announced that he had chosen a new prime minister, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry. But the new prime minister had not yet been sworn into office as of July 7, and Joseph has insisted he is in charge of the government, a claim that has been recognized by the U.S. and others.
Charles said police have arrested 23 people in the killing, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, three Haitians and two Haitian-Americans. Police also have issued seven arrest warrants, searched 10 buildings, conducted 27 interrogations and placed four high-ranking police officers in isolation, he said
He added that the investigation has benefited from the help of the FBI and foreign countries that he did not name.
AP reporter Astrid Suárez in Bogotá, Colombia contributed to this report.