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Friday, May 20, 2022

US indicts second key suspect in Haitian president’s assassination

MIAMI. A Haitian-Chilean businessman thought to be a key suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise appeared in a US federal court on Thursday and was charged with providing weapons to former Colombian soldiers accused of killing the Caribbean nation’s leader.

Rodolphe Jaar, a former U.S. government informant who was recently detained in the Dominican Republic, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending to use such material support to prepare for or carry out a conspiracy to kill or kidnap.

Jaar, 49, is the second foreigner charged and arrested in the United States for his alleged role in the July 7 murder of Moise at his private residence. In early January, former Colombian soldier Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios was charged with the same charges and is still being held in a federal prison in southern Florida.

If Jaar and Palacios are found guilty of the charges, they could face life in prison.

The judge appointed Jaar a public defender and scheduled a January 26 custody hearing where his lawyer could ask for his release on bail, though prosecutors have opposed such a move. He also faces a Feb. 3 arraignment hearing, where he can plead not guilty or guilty. Meanwhile, Palacios has a second court appearance scheduled for January 31.

During Thursday’s hearing, Jaar answered some of the judge’s questions in English to determine whether he could afford his own lawyer or needed a public defender. Jaar, wearing a beige prison uniform and face mask, told the judge that he once owned a business in Haiti but distanced himself from it six months ago and did not receive any income. He added that he had $2,000 in his bank account.

According to court records, Jaar was born in Haiti and has a degree in business administration. He is not a US citizen.

He was indicted in federal court in South Florida in 2013 for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela via Haiti to the United States. According to court records, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to almost four years in prison.

In this newest case, Jaar is accused of being present when an unknown suspect obtained the signature of a former judge in an attempt to illegally arrest the slain president. He is also accused of providing weapons to former Colombian soldiers and of dealing with an unknown suspect and others who fled from the authorities after the assassination. According to the US Department of Justice, an unknown suspect was arrested in Haiti and remains in custody there.

More than 40 people have been arrested in the case, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, most of whom the Colombian government says were duped.

US authorities said both Jaar and Palacios, a former Colombian soldier, voluntarily agreed to file charges in the United States. Palacios was detained in Jamaica in October and sent to the United States. During a stopover in Panama on a flight from Jamaica to Colombia. Federal officials say they questioned him while he was still in hiding in Jamaica.

Gisela Salamon

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