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Police Detain Judge Who Freed Seven Convicted Drug Traffickers

September 18, 1987

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Police on Thursday detained a superior court judge who freed six men and a woman convicted of trafficking in cocaine.

The case represents the first time a Venezuelan judge has been detained in relation to a drug case decision.

The seven were released from Venezuelan jails Friday after Second Superior Court Penal Judge Carlos Silva Garrido overturned a lower court ruling convicting the group of trafficking and possession of about 220 pounds of cocaine.

Police said Thursday the seven have ″disappeared.″

Interior Minister Jose Angel Ciliberto said Wednesday the judge’s decision ″is based on trivial arguments that insult human intelligence″ and called for his removal and a police investigation.

Silva based his judgment on a procedural fault in the case. He said police had searched the traffickers’ premises in Maiquetia, 15 miles north of Caracas, without a warrant.

The judge was removed from his post Wednesday by the National Judicial Council for ″incompetence,″ according to council president Nehemias Benazar.

Police investigators said drug traffickers paid $690,000 to Silva and lawyers involved in the case to buy the convicts’ freedom, according to El Nacional Thursday.

One of the traffickers, Colombian born Venezuelan Eduardo Remolina Lozano, 39, was linked to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar Gaviria, who is wanted in the United States on drug charges.

In June, the seven were sentenced each to 15 years four months in jail.

In 1984 the government approved tough new anti-drug legislation as part of a campaign to crack down on increasing drug trafficking through Venezuela.

Earlier this week officials discovered a 120-pound shipment of cocaine in Maiquetia Airport that apparently was headed for Amsterdam.

Update hourly