Venezuelan opposition politician freed from prison

AP News
Posted: Dec 24, 2011 4:04 PM
Venezuelan opposition politician freed from prison

A Venezuelan opposition politician who has prostate cancer has been freed after four years in prison.

A court granted parole to Jose Sanchez Montiel for humanitarian reasons because of his advanced prostate cancer, defense lawyer Theresly Malave told the Venezuelan television channel Globovision on Saturday.

Sanchez was sentenced last year to 19 years in prison after being convicted of complicity in the killing of a military intelligence official in 2007. Sanchez was elected to the National Assembly last year while in jail awaiting sentencing. He maintains he is innocent.

Some opposition politicians have described him as a political prisoner. Sanchez is one of four jailed opponents of President Hugo Chavez who have been paroled this year due to health problems.

Chavez and government officials deny there are any political prisoners in the country, saying that Sanchez and others have committed crimes.

The president earlier this year urged judicial authorities to consider parole for any prisoners with serious health problems. Chavez made those remarks after he had a cancerous tumor removed from his pelvic region in an operation in June. He has since undergone chemotherapy and says tests show he is cancer-free.

Sanchez was charged with being an accomplice to the killing of military intelligence agent Claudio Macias, who was found dead in a jail in the western city of Maracaibo in 2007.

Sanchez at the time was a security official for the state government in western Zulia state. Some opposition politicians have said they believe Sanchez was targeted for arrest because he was a close ally of former Zulia Gov. Manuel Rosales, a former presidential candidate who fled to Peru in 2009 after prosecutors accused him of corruption. Rosales has denied wrongdoing.

Malave said that Sanchez was barred by the court from speaking to the news media about his case.

Sanchez traveled to Maracaibo on Saturday to spend Christmas with his family, and plans to begin cancer treatment soon, Malave said.

Judicial authorities did not comment publicly on Sanchez's release.