Political Prisoners in Venezuela, Newsletter Nº 34

Even in Jail, I Will Fight for a Free Venezuela

LEOPOLDO LOPEZ I nytimes.com
September 25, 2015

On Feb. 12, 2014, the repressive and inept elite that governs Venezuela ordered my arrest on charges of conspiracy, arson, inciting violence, damage to public property and other crimes. Later that week, after two surprise visits from the president of the National Assembly to my family’s home, it was suggested to me that I should seek refuge in a foreign embassy.

I decided instead to turn myself in on Feb. 18, 2014, and confront the trial the regime had planned. I made this decision fully aware of the risks I was facing and the possible consequences of a politically motivated trial with a compromised judiciary. So when, on Sept. 10, 2015, Judge Susana Barreiros — a mere puppet of those rulers intent on defending their wealth and privilege — sentenced me to more than 13 years in prison, I had no regrets about the decision I had made. I was convicted on the absurd basis that I used “subliminal messages” in my speeches about nonviolence to inspire violence during the February 2014 protests. Read more

Seven Months under House Arrest, Still No Hearing for Caracas Mayor

September 24, 2015

It’s been seven months since Venezuelan authorities arrested Antonio Ledezma on charges of conspiring against President Nicolás Maduro, and the Caracas mayor has still yet to see a judge.

Ledezma’s wife, Mitzy Capriles, announced on Tuesday, September 22, that her husband’s preliminary hearing has been pushed back once again, this time until October 21.

The mayor’s defense attorneys say the government’s case is based on forged evidence and have denounced Ledezma’s inability to defend himself in court against the accusations.

“This is a completely baseless case,” Omar Estacio, Ledezma’s defense attorney, said in an interview with local media. Read more

IACHR Voices Concern over Ruling against Leopoldo López in Venezuela

September 25, 2015

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the judgment issued on September 10, 2015 against Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, finding him guilty of crimes related to exercising freedom of expression and his political rights; and in view of complaints received, alleging absence of due process guarantees in the investigation and trial mounted against him, as noted in its Release No. 57/15. It is also important to note that Precautionary Measure 335/14 was issued by the IACHR on April 20, 2015 in his favor Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos, another Voluntad Popular leader, with respect to the conditions under which they were being detained.

It is a matter of public knowledge that the ruling found Leopoldo López guilty of public incitement, property damage, arson, and conspiracy to commit a crime, and slapped him with a prison term of more than 13 years and 9 months. Convicted along with Leopoldo López were students Christian Holdack, to just over 10 years and 6 months in prison, for arson and damage, public incitement, and conspiracy; and Demian Martín García and Angel de Jesús González, to 4 years and 6 months in prison, for the crime of public incitement. Read more

These Women Are Behind Bars, But They Will Greet World Leaders During UN Gathering

JOEL LYONS I aplus.com
September 24, 2015

Women will be front and center during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week — even if some of them are locked behind bars overseas.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, launched the #FreeThe20 campaign in early September. It marks the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, and aims to encourage global action around the Beijing Declaration’s call for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

But #FreeThe20 is also calling for the release of 20 female political prisoners from 13 countries in a social media campaign. And to really drive the point home, world leaders arriving to the UN General Assembly will be greeted by their portraits. Read more

Venezuela Just Threw My Cousin in Jail

THOR HALVORSSEN I thedailybeast.com
September 23, 2015

They’re either going to have to kill me or imprison me because I’m not leaving and I’m not giving up.” That’s what Leopoldo López, Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leader, told me in his Caracas home after the policeman assigned to protect him, Carlos Mendoza, was shot at 12 times and killed as he waited for López in his SUV in what was a failed assassination attempt against the latter.

Ten years on from that conversation López has survived several attempts on his life—the Venezuelan government has typically claimed they are botched robberies. He is now in prison and last Friday was declared Amnesty International’s first official Prisoner of Conscience from Venezuela in living memory. But what the media covering López’s sham trial and sentencing have failed to appreciate is that the government’s objective is to extinguish López’s life force. Read more

Venezuela’s day of reckoning approaches

VICENTE FOX I miamiherald.com
September 23, 2015

World history suggests that, sooner or later, all dictatorships — whether formal or in disguise — end up falling. In their stubborn struggle to shut down all spaces to any idea that they deem contrary, they begin digging their own graves until, one day, they push what cannot be pushed, and their moment of reckoning comes. Hope and dialogue expatriate fear and silence and, wherever there was imposition and unilateralism, democracy and freedom arise.
For the people of Venezuela, getting ready for the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, this moment is right around the corner. The baseless sentence against Leopoldo López — whose only crime was dreaming the contagious dream of a free, prosperous, and democratic Venezuela — was intended by Maduro as a strong blow to Venezuelan hope and as a calculating move against López’s political rights, as it would preclude him from being voted for. Read more

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