Turkish authorities arrested businessman Samir Handal, a suspect “of great interest” in the July assassination of Haiti’s president, according to Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph.
The Monday arrest is the latest in a globe-trotting effort to round up Jovenel Moïse’s killers as Haiti contends with political instability, fuel shortages, gang violence and hunger made worse by a deadly August earthquake.
Turkey’s state-run media reported Handal was being held in Istanbul after court officials issued a 40-day custody order, according to The Associated Press. Handal, who has been identified as a Haitian national by several media outlets, was arrested after his flight touched down in Istanbul during layover on a flight from the United States to Jordan.
Joseph tweeted that he had spoken by phone with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, late Monday after Handal’s arrest. Joseph gave no more details about whether Haiti will seek Handal’s extradition.
In an interview with The Miami Herald, Joseph called Handal’s arrest a “huge step” in the investigation of Moïse’s death. He said Haiti passed an arrest warrant to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry before Handal’s flight arrived in Istanbul, rounding out an Interpol Red notice issued Sunday.
“I myself am more than determined to do justice to the president and make sure that it’s rendered to his allies, his family and more importantly, the country,” Joseph told The Miami Herald. “When we render justice to the president, we render it to the whole nation.”
Handal joins more than 40 suspects in custody around the world for Moïse’s killing, including former Colombian military officer Mario Palacios Palacios, who is being held in Jamaica, and several Haitian police officers. Among the people Haitian authorities have linked to the assassination plot are Venezuelan businessman Antonio Intriago, Haitian American James Solages, former Haitian Senator John Joël Joseph and a group of U.S.-trained former Colombian soldiers.
It’s unclear whether Handal will be extradited to Haiti, where authorities believe he met with suspected mastermind Christian Emmanuel Sanon to plan Moïse’s assassination, Reuters reports. Haitian police found Handal’s name on three Palestinian passports and seven Haitian passports stowed in Sanon’s home.
President Moïse was killed at his home in the early hours of July 7. Haitian authorities allege Sanon hired Intriago’s Florida-based security company, CTU Security, to help carry out the politically motivated attack in Port-au-Prince. Sanon aspired to take over the presidency, according to Haitian police. The two Haitian Americans implicated in the plot claim they were hired only as interpreters; they, like some of the former Colombian soldiers, said they expected to arrest, not kill, the Haitian president.
In August, only five weeks after the president’s death, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 2,200 people. Haiti has struggled to recover amid political instability sparked by Moïse’s killing, leading to gang rule that has kept the Caribbean country from receiving much-needed humanitarian aid.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.