Trial of Venezuela opposition leader López resumes

The trial Leopoldo López, who was detained Feb. 18 for his alleged role in deadly anti-government protests across the country, briefly resumed Thursday.

Trial of Venezuela opposition leader López resumes

World Bulletin/News Desk

The trial of high-profile Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López and four students arrested in connection with their role in anti-government protests earlier this year, continued Thursday at the Palace of Justice in Caracas. 

López's defense attorney, Juán Carlos Gutiérrez, said four of five planned prosecution witnesses from the country's main forensic and criminal investigative body were called to give evidence, before the trial was adjourned until Sept. 10.

Gutiérrez said his team cross-examined the experts, who had been tasked with analyzing speeches given by López during February's protests to prove the absence of any "incitement to violence," one of the charges leveled at the opposition leader.

The attorney said the experts presented "serious contradictions" which benefited the opposition leader, as "at no point did they incriminate him."

Gutiérrez also said the defense had only been allowed to question witnesses brought by the prosecution, rather than present its own case, and that an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal was planned for next week to force the trial to hear evidence from the defense.

"In that room there will be only half truths, and half truths will never be justice," Gutiérrez said. "We need a fair trial here, with a balanced judicial process, where all evidence from both sides is accepted, as only this will bring us justice and the truth of what happened."

An update on López's official website said the Public Prosecutor was calling "a total of 78 witnesses, many of whom are militants from the PSUV," the political party headed by President Nicolás Maduro and previously by the late President Hugo Chávez, "while the defense continue not to be allowed to present any evidence to support López's innocence, which demonstrates the political bias and blatant imbalance in its application of [legal] standards."

As family members and supporters gathered outside the Palace of Justice, the opposition called a "cacerolazo,"  a nonviolent protest consisting of banging pots and pans.

'Fear' of fair trial

Lopez's trial began July 23, when President Maduro accused López of being part of an "ultra right-wing" group bent on destabilizing his Socialist government. The president promised that justice would be delivered.

Throughout the trial, however, judge Susana Barreiros has dismissed all evidence presented in support of López. The defense team has said it might have to resort to taking the case to an international court if all legal avenues within the Venezuelan judiciary system are exhausted.

Messages on López's Twitter account relayed his opening words at the latest trial, accusing President Maduro of fearing a public trial:

"What is the fear of having this trial in public?" read one tweet. "It was cowardly of Maduro to order my incarceration and now he is afraid of this 'trial' being seen or heard," said another.

López has been held in isolation in a military prison outside Caracas since Feb. 18, when he surrendered to authorities to face charges that include terrorism and murder, which he labeled as "politically motivated."

The more serious charges that were initially filed have since been dropped, but Lopez still faces charges of inciting violence, arson and damage to property, which, if convicted, could lead to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

As the leader of the opposition Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party, López led calls that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in nationwide protests that demanded the government address sky-high crime rates, rampant inflation, censorship of the media, and a lack of staple goods.

More than 40 people died in the ensuing violent demonstrations, which saw security forces taking on protesters who had barricaded streets in a number of cities. Both sides accused the other of having snipers in their ranks and suffered fatalities.

It is estimated that as many as 2,000 people were arrested during the protests.

Unpopular 'biometric' move

A new wave of protests is now brewing after the government announced plans to introduce biometric systems in supermarkets and food stores in a bid to stamp out smuggling of subsidized goods across the border into Colombia.

Police and protesters were hurt in the western city of San Cristóbal earlier this week, when during a small demonstration, protesters hurled petrol bombs at police, who responded with rubber bullets.

The move to introduce fingerprint scanners to track subsidized purchases comes as Venezuela experiments with nightly border closures to hamper contraband getting across the porous 2,200-kilometer (1,367 miles) border with Colombia, where thousands of troops have been stationed in the month-long experiment.

Also earlier this week, officials said 133 people had already been arrested and hundreds of tons of contraband fuel and food seized. Venezuelans can fill a medium-sized car's tank for less than US$1, and it is thought many products fetch as much as 10 times the price levied in Venezuela on the other side of the border.

The government says it will go "all out" in its battle against smuggling, which it points to being the source of shortages of staple products in some regions.

The opposition, however, has accused the government of wanting to dictate to Venezuelans "what and when they can buy" products, in a system they equated with "rationing."

 

Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2014, 22:38
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