More than 20 arrested as Haiti’s president alleges coup conspiracy

Haitian President Jovenel Moise announced that police have arrested more than 20 people he accused of trying to kill him and overthrow his government.

Among those arrested is a Supreme Court judge who has the support of opposition leaders demanding that Mr Moise step down.

Mr Moise spoke at Haiti’s airport in Port-au-Prince, flanked by the country’s prime minister and the police chief as he prepared to leave for the southern coastal town of Jacmel for the opening ceremony of its yearly carnival, which is being held amid the pandemic.

“There was an attempt on my life,” he said.

Mr Moise said the alleged plot began on November 20 but did not provide further details or any evidence except to say among the people arrested is a judge and an inspector general with the police.

Police officers detain demonstrators during a protest to demand the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise (Dieu Nallo Chery/AP)
Police officers detain demonstrators during a protest to demand the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise (Dieu Nallo Chery/AP)

Reynold Georges, a lawyer who once worked as a consultant for Mr Moise’s administration but has since joined the opposition, denounced the arrests in an interview with radio station Zenith FM.

“We ask for his release immediately,” he said of Irvikel Dabresil, the Supreme Court judge who is being detained, adding that the court system should shut down until he is free.

Mr Georges also called on people to rise up against Mr Moise.

Also arrested was Police General Inspector Antoinette Gauthier, according to a statement from the Young Bar Association of Port-au-Prince, which accused Mr Moise’s administration of sowing terror and said Sunday’s actions should not be tolerated.

The arrests come on the day that opposition leaders claim Mr Moise should resign, saying that his term ends on Sunday. Mr Moise has repeatedly stated that his five-year term ends in February 2022.

A protester sets up a burning barricade (Dieu Nallo Chery/AP)
A protester sets up a burning barricade (Dieu Nallo Chery/AP)

Former president Michel Martelly’s term ended in 2016, but a chaotic election forced the appointment of a provisional president for one year until Mr Moise was sworn in in 2017.

The opposition has organised recent protests demanding that Mr Moise step down, and normally congested streets in Haiti’s capital and elsewhere remained empty on Sunday as a handful of demonstrators burned tyres.

Meanwhile, Mr Moise appears to have the support of the administration of US President Joe Biden.

Ned Price, a US State Department spokesman, said on Friday that the US has urged Haiti to organise free and fair elections so that parliament can resume operations, adding that a new elected president should succeed Mr Moise when his terms ends in February 2022.

Mr Moise is currently ruling by decree after dissolving a majority of parliament in January 2020 after no legislative elections were held. He is planning an upcoming constitutional referendum in April that critics say could award him more power, while general elections are scheduled for later this year.

Richmond and Twickenham Times | UK News