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U.S. charges ex-Colombian soldier in assassination of Haitian president

U.S. charges ex-Colombian soldier in assassination of Haitian president
Retired Colombian soldier Mario Palacios appeared in court in Miami Tuesday as he was charged in the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. File Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA-EFE

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The United States on Tuesday charged a retired Colombian commando for allegedly taking part in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Mario Palacios, 43, appeared in federal court in Miami where he was charged with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and 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 in connection to Moise's assassination.

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Palacios was arrested in Jamaica in October and was scheduled to return to Colombia Monday but Interpol detained him during a stopover in Panama where he agreed to be extradited to the United States.

Alfredo Izaguirre, a lawyer appointed to represent Palacios, said he would most likely plead not guilty at a pretrial hearing later this month.

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If convicted of the charges, Palacios faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Moise was assassinated after attackers stormed his Port-au-Prince mansion on July 7, shooting the president and injuring his wife, Martine Moise.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday, Palacios and approximately 20 other Colombian citizens as well as a group of Haiti-based dual Haitian American citizens that carried out the assassination.

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The Colombian government said many of the ex-soldiers involved in the killing were led to believe they were on a legitimate mission backed by the United States.

Haitian investigators said the soldiers were aware they would kidnap or kill the president and replace him with former supreme court judge, WIndelle Coq-Thelot.

"Palacios and others entered the presidential residence in Haiti with the intent and purpose of killing President Moise, and in fact, the president was killed," an FBI agent investigating the case said in the affidavit unsealed Tuesday.

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Three Colombian soldiers were killed by Haitian police in the operation against Moise and the other 18 were captured and jailed. Apart from Palacios, none have yet to be formally charged.

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