Relatives of jailed Venezuelan dissident seek global action
MADRID (AP) — Relatives and lawyers of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez want the Red Cross to verify his health and are seeking to bring President Nicolas Maduro’s government before a Spanish court for alleged terrorism crimes.
Spain’s laws allow judges to take on cases for crimes committed outside of the country as long as the victims are Spanish, although very few have succeeded.
The family’s lawyers said Friday that at least two opposition leaders with Spanish passports are being held in Venezuelan prisons in circumstances similar to Lopez’s.
Lopez’s father and sister also said they doubt the veracity of the video released Thursday by the leader of the ruling socialist party in Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, in response to rumors spreading online about Lopez’s health.
In the video, Lopez appears “unrecognizable,” said Diana Lopez, the opposition leader’s sister. “We have big doubts about this video and we don’t accept it as proof of him being alive.”
Venezuela is being roiled by almost-daily protests that have shaken Maduro’s grip on power and left more than 30 people dead.
The crackdown by security forces is the bloodiest since Lopez led weeks of protests in 2014, for which he was jailed and later sentenced to nearly 14 years for what are widely seen as trumped-up charges of inciting violence.
“They are fearful of Leopoldo’s words. That’s why they condemned him, they imprisoned him and now they keep him isolated,” the sister said, adding that Lopez hasn’t received a visit from relatives or lawyers since April 7.
The Lopez family’s Spanish lawyers wrote to the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, asking the organization to verify, “through a direct personal contact,” the whereabouts and health of Lopez.
The organization hadn’t received an official request by Friday evening, but individual appeals “don’t change the organization’s strategy of requesting access to detention centers in Venezuela and elsewhere to verify that the conditions are humane and that detainees are treated with dignity and respect,” ICRC Spokesman Marco Yuri Jimenez said.
The lawyers also announced that they would take the cases of two imprisoned Spaniards in Venezuela, Andrea Gonzalez and Yon Goicoechea, hoping to prompt action by the anti-terrorism prosecutor in Spain against Venezuelan authorities and later expand the case to other prisoners, including Lopez himself.
“If the government is arming paramilitary groups, allowing them and encouraging them, then authorities are also responsible for the crimes committed by these terrorists,” said Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, a member of the legal team and former justice minister.