Venezuela denies pressure on prosecutor in opposition leader's trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2015 2:41 PM

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's chief prosecutor on Monday denied her office had put pressure on officials to use false evidence in the trial of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, days after a prosecutor in the case fled the country and called the trial a "farce."

Franklin Nieves, who was one of the trial prosecutors, said in a video released on Friday that he was under constant pressure from his superiors. He said that led to the unfair imprisonment of Lopez.

"At the State Prosecutors' Office we don't pressure anyone," Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said in a television interview. She said Nieves "allowed himself to be pressured. He gave in to pressures from foreign and domestic elements."

Lopez's supporters have said that Nieves' testimony should be grounds for reversing the verdict. On TV, Ortega said those who had made that suggestion were "getting ahead of themselves."

In September, Lopez was sentenced to nearly 14 years on charges stemming from his role in a wave of protests in 2014 that left 43 people dead. Opposition critics slammed the proceedings as political witch hunt that violated due process.

Though he had publicly called for peaceful resistance to the government and was behind bars during most of the unrest, prosecutors said his speeches sent subliminal messages and constituted a call to violence.

President Nicolas Maduro accused Lopez of seeking to overthrow his government and calls him the "Monster of Ramo Verde" in reference to the military prison where he is held.

Maduro's critics say the judicial system is controlled by the ruling Socialist Party and widely used to intimidate government adversaries, an accusation echoed by former supreme court magistrate Eladio Aponte who fled the country in 2012.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Grant McCool)