Venezuelan opposition leader tortured for days, wife says

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  July 10, 2017 at 8:24 AM
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July 10 (UPI) -- Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, said her husband was tortured and lost about 13 pounds and part of his sight before being placed on house arrest.

Venezuela's high court -- the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ -- on Saturday made the announcement that López would be relocated out of the Ramo Verde military prison for transfer to house arrest, which Tintori on Sunday said she did not expect.

Tintori said the decision to transfer her husband out of Ramo Verde must have been urgent and necessary because of the harmful conditions in which he lived while imprisoned.

"The last days for Leopoldo in Ramo Verde were the worst. We denounce torture. In those days he lost 6 kilos [about 13 pounds] of weight. Leopoldo is not well in sight -- he is not seeing well," Tintori told reporters in Caracas. "Leopoldo knew torture, evil. No political prisoner deserves cruel and inhuman treatment."

The TSJ said it made the decision to free López after seeing "irregularities" in his case and because of "information received about" his health.

López was sentenced in September 2014 to nearly 14 years after he was found guilty on four charges: conspiracy, public incitement, determinative in arson and in damages. The charges for López's closed-door trial were put forward by Venezuela's Public Ministry under the guidance of President Nicolas Maduro.

López, leader of the Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will, opposition party and former mayor of Chacao, a municipality within Caracas, was arrested in February 2014 after handing himself over to authorities.

He organized protests earlier in 2014 calling for better security, an end to food shortages and enhanced freedom of speech for citizens, but the protests turned deadly -- about 43 people died, both government supporters and opponents. Maduro's government blamed López partly for fueling tensions that led to the deadly demonstrations.

"Despite all that he lived, Leopoldo remains steadfast. We are not going to abandon the fight, on the contrary, we are going to fight more for Venezuela, we will fight more to get out of this crisis," Tintori added. "We need strong leaders who understand that we need an immediate solution."

The Venezuelan opposition on Sunday marked the 100th day of nearly daily anti-government protests, which have often turned violent and led to the deaths of more than 90 people carried out by Venezuelan security forces, opposition protesters and pro-government supporters.

Tintori said the decision to release López was a "unilateral decision of the government of Nicolas Maduro."

"Freedom, justice, meetings, reconciliation, peace and respect for the fundamental rights of all. That will continue to be our struggle, of all ... I cannot be happy because the people are suffering ... because there are no medicines, because there are hundreds of political prisoners -- but my house was filled with love and strength because Leopoldo is there," Tintori added.

Maduro on Sunday said he "respected" and "supported" the TSJ decision to grant López house arrest, but called for "a message of peace and rectification" in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan opposition, consolidated politically in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, on Monday is holding a 10-hour "national lockdown" protest beginning at 10 a.m.

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