Haiti wants Jamaica to turn over suspect in president’s assassination


Haiti wants a former politician accused in the brazen assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July to be returned to the country from Jamaica.

John Joël Joseph

The country’s foreign minister has sent an official request to Jamaica seeking the return of former senator John Joël Joseph, a high-ranking Haitian government source confirmed to the Miami Herald.

In Jamaica, Joseph is charged with illegal entry after he, his wife and two sons were arrested in January in rural St. Elizabeth parish. It is unclear if Haitian authorities are requesting Joseph’s deportation or extradition. Haiti and Jamaica do not share an extradition agreement. Joseph, who also goes by the name Joseph Joël John, is a Haitian citizen. He ended up in Jamaica after spending months in hiding after the July 7, 2021, assassination of Moïse at his private residence.

The late president, whose mandate officially ended last month according to the international community’s timetable, was shot 12 times and his wife was seriously injured after an alleged hit squad of former Colombian military stormed his home. They were joined by two Haitian Americans and current and former Haiti National Police officers. Joseph is considered a key suspect in the case who can shed light on the motive behind Moïse’s slaying.  

Haitian police say Joseph was in contact with several of the suspects in the assassination plot and attended meetings about the attack. A 124-page Haiti National Police investigative report also accused him of paying for the rental vehicles that were to be used in the assassination.

Documents seeking Joseph’s return to Haiti were sent to Jamaica on March 10, the same day that Joseph appeared in a Kingston court, where a judge put off a decision on his fate. “Mr. John Joël Joseph is considered a fugitive from justice and is suspected of being an accessory to a crime,” the Haiti official said. “All of this has been clearly stated in the correspondence.”

The investigation of Moïse’s murder has stalled in Haiti, where the first investigative judge resigned from the case before even starting, the second had it taken from him after he was accused of corruption and failed to meet a legal deadline to bring formal charges, and a third turned down a request to take over the investigation due to safety concerns.

Earlier this month a fourth investigative judge, Merlan Belabre, was assigned to the case. But in a handwritten press release dated Saturday, Belabre expressed concerns about his safety, saying that 10 days after his naming no effort had been made to ensure his and his family’s security.

The little progress there has been in the investigation has occurred in the U.S. Two suspects are currently in custody when they voluntarily came to the U.S. after being detained outside of Haiti. A Colombian former soldier, Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, was picked up by U.S. federal agents in Panama on Jan. 3 during the process of being deported to Colombia by Jamaica. The second suspect, Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug trafficker, was escorted by U.S. federal agents to Miami last month after being detained in the Dominican Republic.