Haiti's president alleges coup conspiracy, says 20 arrested

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A boy drags a sign reading in Creole Do not throw trash here. The Police, that has been set alight to setup a barricade during a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

PORT-AU-PRINCE – PORT-AU-Haitian President Jovenel Moïse announced Sunday that police have arrested more than 20 people he accused of trying to kill him and overthrow his government, including a Supreme Court judge who has the support of opposition leaders demanding that Moïse step down.

Moïse 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.

Moïse said the alleged plot began Nov. 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. Moïse then said other high-ranking officials would provide more information.

Prime Minister Joseph Joute said later in the day that authorities found several weapons and a speech that Supreme Court Judge Yvickel Dabrézil had allegedly prepared if he were to become provisional president. Dabrézil is one of three judges that the opposition favors as a potential transitional president.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent accused the inspector general of being in touch with high-ranking security officials at the National Palace over an alleged plot to have the president arrested.

André Michel, one of Haiti's top opposition leaders, held a press conference hours after the arrests and called for civil disobedience and demanded that Moïse be arrested. Michel, an attorney, said it was illegal to arrest Dabrézil because he has automatic immunity.

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