Venezuela frees four anti-government activists, opposition says

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 13, 2016 8:45 AM

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela released on Tuesday another four opponents of President Nicolas Maduro, but activists demanded the immediate freedom of more than 100 others they say are also unjustly imprisoned, opposition leaders and relatives said.

"These four were freed overnight, at 2 a.m. Of course, we have to express some satisfaction. But ... all the political prisoners are innocent, they all deserve freedom," said Jesus Torrealba, head of the opposition coalition.

There was no official word from the government on their release.

The four - bank messenger Gilberto Sojo, engineer Vladimir Araque, retired general Romer Mena and lawyer Leopoldo D'Alta - were arrested in 2014 and 2015 on various accusations of fomenting violence and plotting against the socialist government. All deny the charges.

They are among the lesser-known Maduro opponents jailed since he won an election to replace Hugo Chavez in 2013.

The ruling Socialist Party says its opponents, encouraged by the United States, want to seize power via a coup and denies the existence of political prisoners in Venezuela.

But critics say Maduro has turned the South American OPEC nation into a dictatorship, far surpassing his predecessor Chavez in political repression.

The subject of prisoners was high on the list of Vatican-brokered talks between the government and opposition that began at the end of October but have stalled in recent days.

The four's release on Tuesday followed the freeing of half a dozen other opposition activists in goodwill gestures after the talks began

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne Editing by W Simon)