'We were cheated, framed, and scammed'
Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT) December 18, 2021
CNN Exclusive: Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- The smell of raw sewage and food waste permeates the air in the entrance to Haiti's National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince.
Its source is the exposed pipe that visitors must walk over as a liquid mix slides through to the street.
A pat-down of even our heads from quiet security guards follows and then a large metal door swings open, revealing a courtyard on the other side.
In this world exclusive, CNN came to the prison hoping to speak to a certain group of inmates whom the government has refused to make available until now: Some of the 26 Colombians and two Haitian-Americans that investigators say entered Haitian President Jovenel Moise's bedroom in the early morning hours of July 7 and killed him in a hail of gunfire.
Haitian authorities call these men assassins. They call themselves innocent.
"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.
Above, the scene outside the National Penitentiary where family members bring food for prisoners inside.
CNN was allowed to enter the penitentiary after months of negotiation, with only paper and a pen, and told to wait in a wooden hut in the prison courtyard. Twenty minutes later, five Colombian men clearly not expecting our visit walked toward us in shorts, t-shirts and dark blue croc-style sandals, looking gaunt and unhealthy.
In an exclusive interview, these five are the first and only suspects in the assassination case to speak out publicly. They agreed to do so only if their identities were withheld, fearing for their own safety and that of their families.
Their message was consistent over an hour-long conversation in their native Spanish -- they are innocent, they have been tortured and they have been set-up.
Afraid to talk
All five men said they arrived in Haiti in June, about a month before the assassination that would upturn their lives and throw the country's political landscape into chaos.
All former Colombian soldiers, they told CNN they were hired as private security by a company called CTU.
Promised anywhere from $2,700-3,000 a month, they took on the job. According to the five men CNN spoke to and the wives of several others, they were never paid a dime.
CTU has not responded to CNN's prior requests for comment and it's unclear if the company even still exists.
"We were told that we were going to provide security for a Haiti presidential candidate," said one of the men. "We had no idea what was going to happen."
In Haiti, they were part of a group of more than two dozen Colombians who lived and worked together in a compound in the capital city Port-au-Prince, not that far from where then-President Moise lived.
In the dead of night on July 7, this group was loaded into a convoy that would rumble up Pelerin Road to the presidential compound.
The president would be fatally shot shortly afterward. His wife, First Lady Martine Moise, was severely injured in the gunfire as well.