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Venezuela lawmakers approve treason trials for opposition leaders

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela lawmakers approve treason trials for opposition leaders
Venezuela's pro-government Constituent Assembly unanimously voted to put opposition leaders, supportive of U.S. economic sanctions, on trial for treason. Photo by Cristian Hernandez/EPA

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, condemned as unconstitutional by the international community, has unanimously voted to put opposition leaders -- who support U.S. sanctions -- on trial for treason.

The pro-government legislative body's action came days after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions last week against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's regime.

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The Constituent Assembly issued a decree Tuesday, seeking to "jointly initiate with the appropriate state organs an historic trial for treason against the homeland of those who may be involved in promoting these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people."

During a televised address, Diosdado Cabello, a key ally of Maduro, said the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition "worked in a sustained manner to achieve" the U.S. sanctions that harm Venezuelans.

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Cabello did not reveal exactly how the treason trial process would move forward, nor was it said which opposition leaders will be put on trial.

Wednesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the Venezuelan regime and the Constituent Assembly's Commission of Truth, Justice and Peace for "measures taken by authorities to criminalize leaders of the political opposition."

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"The Commission, recently established by the Constituent Assembly, does not meet the basic requirements of transparency and impartiality, to conduct investigations that are independent and free from political motivation on human rights violations and abuses," OHCHR Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

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A report by the U.N. office said extensive human rights violations and abuses committed amid anti-government protests show "the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instil fear in the population to curb demonstrations."

"The generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protestors and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials," the report noted.

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