In the entrance to Haiti’s National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince, the smell of raw sewage and food waste pervades the air.
The open pipe that tourists must cross over while a liquid mix seeps through to the street is the source.
A silent security guy pats down our heads, and suddenly a massive metal door swings wide, revealing a courtyard on the opposite side.
CNN went to the prison in search of an exclusive interview with a group of detainees whom the authorities had previously refused to make available: Investigators believe some of the 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans who stormed Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s bedroom early on July 7 and assassinated him in a hail of gunfire.
These men are referred to as assassins by Haitian authorities. They pride themselves on being blameless.
“We were useful idiots for someone else,” one of the men told us. “But we did not commit this crime.” More than five months detained after that deadly night, the men have not been formally charged.
After months of negotiations, CNN was allowed to enter the prison with only a pen and paper, and was told to wait in a wooden hut in the prison courtyard. Twenty minutes later, five Colombian males dressed in shorts, t-shirts, and dark blue croc-style sandals walked toward us, appearing emaciated and ill.
These five are the first and only suspects in the assassination case to speak out publicly in an exclusive interview. They agreed to do so only if their identities were kept hidden, as they feared for their own and their families’ safety.
Over the course of an hour-long chat in their native Spanish, they repeatedly stated that they are innocent, that they have been tortured, and that they have been set up.
All five men said they landed in Haiti in June, a month before the assassination that would turn their lives upside down and throw the country’s political landscape into disarray.