Union leader released from jail in Venezuela

AP News
Posted: Mar 03, 2011 2:26 PM
Union leader released from jail in Venezuela

A Venezuelan union organizer was freed from jail Thursday, just three days after he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in a case that sparked protests by human-rights and labor groups.

Ruben Gonzalez told state television he had been granted parole and would be required to appear before authorities every 15 days. He said he was pleased with his conditional release but was not totally satisfied because he is certain he committed no crime.

"The only thing I did was represent workers in their just cause," Gonzalez told a news conference in eastern Venezuela.

The activist was sentenced Monday for leading a strike that temporarily paralyzed the state-run iron mining company. The sentence drew protests from human rights groups, and some Venezuelan union leaders had pledged to wage street protests to press for his release.

State radio reported that Gonzalez was released in response to a ruling by a Supreme Court magistrate. Details of the decision were not immediately released, and government officials did not comment.

Gonzalez thanked student protesters who had rallied for his freedom in a hunger strike last month, as well as human-rights activists and members of both opposition and pro-government circles.

He said he is pleased to be returning home to his family and to his work as a union organizer.

Gonzalez was sentenced Monday on charges including unlawful assembly, incitement to commit crimes and violation of a government security zone during a 2009 strike at CVG Ferrominera Orinoco CA, better known as Ferrominera.