Quebec man charged with terrorism for alleged coup plot against Moïse’s government in Haiti

Quebec man charged with terrorism for alleged coup plot against Moïse's government in Haiti
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A Lévis, Que., man is facing terrorism charges after the RCMP said he allegedly planned a terrorist act to overthrow the Haitian government of Jovenel Moïse.

Gérald Nicolas, 51, took “concrete actions” including traveling to Haiti to coordinate a group of people who intended to take part in a coup against established authority, the RCMP said in a press release on Thursday.

Nicolás faces three charges, including leaving Canada to facilitate terrorist activity, facilitating terrorist activity and providing property for terrorist purposes.

RCMP says the charges stem from an investigation by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), which began after an exchange of information with local police in Lévis, on Quebec City’s south shore.

The investigation, which began in July 2021, revealed that Nicolás allegedly planned to stage an armed revolution in Haiti and ultimately seize power.

Gerald Nicolas faces three counts of terrorism. (Municipality of Saint-Frédéric)

The police say that Nicolás recruited people for the armed revolution

RCMP Sgt. Charles Poirier said investigators believed Nicolas began hatching his plan in January 2020.

A man in a police uniform stands in front of a building.
Sergeant Charles Poirier says that Nicholas is not in custody because he does not pose a threat to the Canadians. (CBC)

“In fact, he managed to travel to Haiti and other parts of Central and South America. He went to various countries there to recruit people to get some funding and also to acquire weapons, which he failed to do,” Poirier told CBC News. .

The RCMP officer said that Nicolás is not in custody because he is not considered a threat to Canadians and that this investigation is not related to the murder of Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

The situation in Haiti in 2020 and early 2021, when Nicolás is accused of starting to plan a coup, was fraught with discontent against Moïse, according to Frantz Voltaire, a Haitian historian, political scientist and community leader.

“There were no functional institutions in the country. There was a lot of discontent,” Voltaire said.

Before he was assassinated, Moïse, who rose to power after turbulent elections in 2015 and 2016, had clashed with opponents who argued that his presidential term had ended.

But the announcement of the charges against a Quebecer accused of planning the overthrow of the Haitian government came as a shock to Voltaire.

“I have never heard of a case like this,” he said, adding that he had never heard of Nicolás and that the man from Lévis is not prominent in Haiti.

“But you know, it often happens that there are groups that conspire against the government.”

A person holds a photo of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse during his memorial ceremony at the National Museum of the Pantheon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 20, 2021. Moïse was assassinated at his home on July 7. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

Defendant denies all charges

Nicolas, in a conversation with Radio-Canada, denied the charges, saying he was set up by a woman he met online on dating website Seeking Arrangement.

He acknowledged that he sent money and traveled to Haiti, but affirms that it was all for “people in need.” He says that the reason he was charged has to do with his ethnicity as a Haitian.

“If I were white, I wouldn’t be talking to you today,” Nicholas said. “All I did was go to Haiti and educate Haitians so they can take their future [in their hands].”

‘Extremely serious’ charges

Although the news of these charges may surprise some, the Haitian diaspora community is large and often feels very strong ties and loyalties to their country, said Harold Isaac, a freelance journalist in Haiti.

“Some people take things very seriously. That being said, it doesn’t excuse someone from attempting criminal action, but it may partly explain why that person would feel compelled to do something,” Isaac said. “This is unfortunately the situation in which we are living.”

There are still a number of questions about the defendant, including why he is not in police custody, said Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence official and manager of Canada’s Security Intelligence Service.

“There is a bit of confusion in the information. Because it says that the RCMP arrested someone but now they would release them with [an] accusation of that nature. We’re not just talking about the theft of a bicycle here, we’re talking about terrorist activities,” said Juneau-Katsuya, who specializes in national security issues.

“We have had people charged under the Penal Code for terrorist activities, but planning a coup abroad is, to my knowledge, the first time we have charged someone of that nature… This is extremely serious. It can go up to life in prison if it is necessary as a penalty”. .”

Nicolás is expected to appear in court in Quebec City on December 1.

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