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Haiti's PM Replaces Prosecutor Who Wants Him Charged In President Moïse's Slaying

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

There's been a big development in the investigation into the assassination of Haiti's president. The top prosecutor in the country asked a judge to bar the acting prime minister from leaving Haiti. That's because he wanted to question him about the assassination. That prosecutor has now been replaced. Up until this point, more than 40 people have been arrested in the case, and that includes 26 former Colombian soldiers and three Haitian Americans. But investigators have still been unable to say exactly who ordered the killing and why. Yeah, it's a lot.

So let's bring in NPR's Carrie Kahn from Mexico City, who covers the Caribbean. She's here to help us untangle this. Carrie, what does the prosecutor in the assassination investigation want to ask the prime minister? And does he consider him a suspect?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: This is the fired prosecutor. For weeks, it's been known that the acting prime minister, Ariel Henry - he spoke on the phone with one of the prime suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. In question, really, A, there are two phone calls between Henry, who was not prime minister at the time, and the suspect, who is a former justice official, and he's currently in hiding. And the two calls happened just after 4:00 a.m. That's just about three hours after Moise was murdered in his bedroom at his residence. Henry has not made public statements about why he was talking with this man right after the assassination.

MARTINEZ: And Henry has now fired the former prosecutor. On what grounds?

KAHN: Right. He only said the prosecutor was fired for, quote, "grave administrative errors." So it's unclear. It's also unclear when the prosecutor actually was fired. Was it before or after he demanded Henry answer these questions and barred him from leaving the country?

You know, look. Henry was actually appointed by President Jovenel Moise, and he was supposed to take office the day the president was assassinated. He was brought in as this consensus-builder. He's seen as an elder statesman. Moise was ruling by decree at the time. He was in a deep political crisis. Henry is 71. He's a respected neurosurgeon, and he has the backing of the international community. Some say he was imposed on Haiti by the international community.

But many analysts just believe what's happening right now - this firing, the accusations, all of it - are signs of political infighting among those vying for power in Haiti right now, really taking advantage of the fact that Haiti doesn't have a president.

MARTINEZ: Did the fired prosecutor say why Henry would have any motivation to kill the president?

KAHN: No. And that's a great question. But the other question is, why was he on the phone with this man suspected in the case? I spoke with Robert Fatton, who's a politics professor and Haiti expert at the University of Virginia, just, you know, trying to make sense of this all. He says it's clear there's infighting and a power struggle, but he says Henry cannot remain silent any longer.

ROBERT FATTON JR: It's very difficult for most Haitians to think of Ariel Henry as someone who would have been involved in a plot of that nature. But there are questions. Henry should answer the questions. Otherwise, his image is going to be seriously tarnished.

KAHN: It's important to note that despite, like you said, more than 40 people arrested in the case, including these foreign mercenaries, investigators just haven't offered a clear motive of why someone wanted to get rid of Haiti's president. And the investigation has bogged down, and it seems that we're far from finding out who ordered this murder and why.

MARTINEZ: Where does it go next?

KAHN: First of all, in Haiti, the criminal investigations are run by a judge, not the prosecutor. So we'll have to see what the judge does next. And we have to see what Henry does next, too, how he will address these many questions about his actions.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City. Carrie, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET'S "IMMEDIATELY VISIBLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.