The US has arrested one of the main suspects in the killing of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse an charged him with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States.

Mario Antonio Palacios, a 43-year-old former Colombian soldier, also was charged with providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending that such material support would be used to prepare for or carry out the conspiracy to kill or kidnap.

He appeared at a federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday AEDT) but did not enter a plea. He was granted counsel based on limited income and is scheduled to appear in court again on January 31.

Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise are tossed on the floor after being detained, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021.Credit:AP

Court-appointed attorney Alfredo Izaguirre told US Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes that he recommended Palacios stay in detention because he has no immigration status, relatives or ties to the United States.

Palacios was arrested in Jamaica in October and was scheduled to fly to his native Colombia on Monday. However, Interpol notified Palacios during a stopover in Panama that the US government was extraditing him, said General Jorge Luis Vargas, director of Colombia’s police.

Interpol wanted poster identifying Mario Antonio Palacios.Credit:Interpol

He said that Colombia, Jamaica and the US were in touch to coordinate the deportation and extradition of Palacios.

The US Department of Justice said in a press release that Palacios agreed to travel to the US during his layover in Panama.

Palacios spoke briefly during the court hearing, answering questions about his income and telling the judge that he owns a house in Cali, Colombia, and receives pension equivalent to $517 from the army.

Interpol had issued a red alert for Palacios on charges including attempted murder, armed robbery and conspiracy based on a request from the Haitian government.

The office of Haiti’s prime minister issued a brief statement, saying only that it wanted justice to prevail in the July 7 assassination of Moïse at his private residence. The office did not reply to additional questions including whether the government was still seeking to charge Palacios or extradite him to Haiti.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the US taking custody of Palacios was a step in the right direction, but he urged local authorities to work with the US to extradite him so he can face justice in Haiti.

Palacios was one of more than a dozen former Colombian soldiers accused in the slaying of Moïse. The Colombian government has said that the majority of the ex-soldiers were duped and thought they were on a legitimate mission to provide protection and that only a few knew it was a criminal mission.

More than 40 suspects have been detained, including 19 former Colombian soldiers. Among them is Palacios, who was a member of Colombia’s military for 20 years.


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