Turkish authorities have arrested businessman Samir Handal in connection with the July 7 assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse at his Port-au-Prince residence, it was announced.
Handal is suspected of having had a great interest in Moïse's killing, according to Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph.
Monday's arrest is the latest in a seemingly endless case tracking down the conspiracy which led a group of hired commandos, most of them Colombian, to execute the operation against the Caribbean nation's head of state.
Haiti is rebuilding itself from political instability, fuel shortages, gang violence and hunger in addition to a deadly earthquake in August plus the COVID-19 pandemic.
Turkish 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 en route 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. It is yet undetermined 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. Haiti had issued an arrest warrant to Turkey's Foreign Ministry before Handal's flight arrived in Istanbul, rounding out an Interpol Red Notice issued Sunday.
I 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.
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 US-trained former Colombian soldiers.
Haitian investigators believe Handal had met with suspected mastermind Christian Emmanuel Sanon to plan Moïse's assassination, according to Reuters reports. Police had 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, after which Sanon reportedly sought to take over the presidency. The two Haitian Americans implicated in the plot claim they were hired only as interpreters. Like some of the former Colombian soldiers, they too claimed they expected to arrest Moïse, not kill him.
In August, only five weeks after the president's death, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 2,200 people.