Venezuela court upholds opposition leader’s jail term
A Venezuelan court has rejected an appeal by jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez against the 14-year prison sentence handed down to him for his involvement in anti-government protests.
“The sentence was confirmed on the same terms. It’s official,” Juan Carlos Gutierrez, the lawyer representing Lopez, tweeted on Friday.
Lopez, a 45-year-old US-educated economist, was arrested in February 2014 amid a wave of pro- and anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela that left 43 people dead.
After a closed-door trial last September, he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for inciting violence in the South American country.
Lopez, however, has denied the allegations, saying he only called for peaceful rallies against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Critics argue that the opposition figure was put behind bars by the government in an attempt to suppress dissent, but Maduro describes Lopez as a dangerous criminal.
“This is certainly a political trial. Unfortunately, the government’s interest takes priority over the justice system,” Gutierrez added.
Meanwhile, Jesus Torrealba, spokesman for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), condemned the jail term given to Lopez and reiterated its calls for his freedom.
People demonstrate is support of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in Caracas, Venezuela, July 22, 2016. ©Reuters
Since 2014, Venezuela has been grappling with protests against Maduro who is under fire by his opponents for his handling of the economy.
Venezuela’s opposition has steeled itself in a battle to unseat Maduro in a recall referendum, blaming the leader for the country’s triple-digit inflation and shortage of basic goods that have triggered violence and looting.
The president, however, blames the problems on an “economic war” waged by the opposition with a helping hand from Washington aimed at bringing about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country.