Police in Haiti say they have arrested a doctor they believe is a key suspect in organising last week’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
They say Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old Haitian national, flew into the country from the US on a private jet in early June with “political motives”.
The president, 53, was shot to death at his residence on July 7, by 28 foreign mercenaries, the police said earlier. His wife was injured in the attack, and flown to the US for treatment.
Martine Moïse later described the moment assassins “riddled” her husband with bullets after bursting into their home in the middle of the night. She said the attack happened so quickly, her husband Jovenel was unable to “say a single word”.
Sanon’s arrest was announced at a police briefing late on Sunday in the capital Port-au-Prince.
“This is an individual who entered Haiti on a private plane with political objectives,” said Haiti’s police chief Leon Charles. He said the initial plan had been to arrest President Moïse, but “the mission then changed”. He did not elaborate.
“When we, the police, blocked the progress of these bandits after they committed their crime, the first person that one of the assailants called was Christian Emmanuel Sanon,” said Charles.
“He contacted two other people that we consider to be the masterminds of the assassination.” The police chief did not say who the other two people were.
Sanon, a prominent Haitian doctor who has lived in Florida on and off for 20 years, is suspected of being one of the ring leaders of the hit squad that killed Moise, the Miami Herald said.
Sanon is the third person of Haitian descent tied to Florida to be seized, the Herald said.
Two of them – James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55 – told authorities during questioning that the assassination was part of a plot to install Sanon as president of the Caribbean nation, sources told the outlet.
A delegation of senior US security and justice officials on Sunday arrived in Haiti at the invitation of Haitian authorities to assess the security situation. The team will also meet three Haitian politicians. each of whom is claiming to be the country’s legitimate leader.
Moïse had been president of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, since 2017. His time in office was rocky as he faced accusations of corruption and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital and other cities earlier this year.
Parliamentary elections should have been held in October 2019 but disputes have delayed them, meaning Moïse was ruling by decree. He had planned to hold a referendum on proposed constitutional changes this September.
In February this year, on the day the opposition wanted him to leave office, Moïse said an attempt to kill him and overthrow the government had been foiled.
It is still unclear who organised last week’s attack and with what motive. A number of questions remain unanswered, including how the alleged assassins were able to enter the property. Moïse’s bodyguards are due to be questioned later this week.
One prominent opposition figure has openly expressed scepticism over the current version of events. Former Haitian senator Steven Benoit told local station Magik9 radio on Friday it was “not Colombians who killed him”, but did not provide evidence to back up his claims.
The situation is doing little to resolve the political and economic instability that has long plagued the nation.