The charges brought against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country, said Amnesty International.
“Venezuelan authorities must either present solid evidence to substantiate the charges against López or release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International Americas Programme Deputy Director.
“These charges appear to be politically motivated because of his leadership in the recent anti-government protests. Currently, Amnesty International has not seen evidence to substantiate these charges. This is an affront to justice and free assembly.”
It is understood that Leopoldo López, the leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular (Political Will), has been charged with homicide, grievous bodily harm and other crimes in relation to the deaths of three people in the last few days during mass demonstrations.
President Maduro showed his commitment to human rights when he stated a few days ago that his government wouldn’t tolerate violence from his supporters and the security forces. He must now send a clear message that nobody is going to be detained for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.
In the absence of any evidence against Leopoldo López, Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release and for all charges to be dropped. Likewise, the deaths of last week must be fully investigated and those responsible be brought to justice.
Leopoldo López handed himself in to the National Guard (Guardia Nacional) on 18 February after a mass anti-government demonstration he organized.
The arrest warrant issued against him on 13 February is for his alleged responsibility for violence that occurred during and after student demonstrations in the last two weeks.
Amnesty International has not seen a copy of the arrest warrant, but press statements state that he has been charged with homicide and grievous bodily harm among others.
According to the information received, Leopoldo López was due to appear before Judge Raleyns Tovar Guillén at a Court in Caracas at 10:00 local time (14:30 GMT). The judge has to make a decision on whether he will be held in detention, freed on bail or unconditionally released.