Caracas councilman dies in jail

12 October, 2018, 06:17 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Mourners of the municipal lawmaker Fernando Alban shout slogans in front of riot police members standing outside the headquarters of Bolivarian National Intelligence Service in Caracas Venezuela

Municipal lawmaker Fernando Alban, 56, was jailed last Friday for alleged involvement in the explosion of two drones during a military parade in early August led by President Nicolas Maduro, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in a post on Twitter.

In brief comments on state TV he said Alban was in the waiting room of the Caracas headquarters of Venezuela's intelligence police waiting to be transferred to a courthouse when he asked to use the bathroom.

The Venezuelan opposition, the Justice First party, of which Alban was a member, insisted that the councilman was killed and that the regime of President Nicolas Maduro was responsible.

"With great pain and thirst for justice we tell the people of Venezuela. that Councilman Fernando Alban was murdered at the hands of the regime of Nicolas Maduro", the party said.

Opposition leader Julio Borges said Salazar was a personal friend and cast doubts on the suicide claim. It did not provide evidence for its charge or say how it believed he was killed.

Ravina Shamdasani with the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said the U.N.'s Human Rights Council has mandated the human rights arm to do a report on Venezuela, but was unclear if the councilman's death would be covered in that report.

The official claim is drawing a swift denial from Venezuelan opposition leaders close to Alberto Alban Salazar.

In a statement, the European Union also demanded "a thorough and independent investigation" to clarify the circumstances of Alban's "tragic death".

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Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is in Venezuela for meetings with Maduro and his opponents, called Alban's death while in the government's custody "disturbing".

"And he didn't do it. He loved the country too much", she said in an interview outside the SEBIN's headquarters, known as "The Tomb" for its underground detention facility.

Rights groups and the opposition have said that Mr Maduro's administration is holding hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges meant to stifle dissent.

Authorities have arrested at least 30 people linked to the drone explosions on August 2, which injured seven soldiers.

"The EU reiterates its call to the Venezuelan government to release all political prisoners", added EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. He said Mr Alban told him that he had been interrogated, but not tortured.

While Venezuelans a year ago saw dozens of youths killed in violent street battles with security forces, the death of activists or government opponents while in state custody is a fate more associated with the far deadlier, right-wing dictatorships that dominated much of South America in the 1970s.

"They have tried to assassinate me today, and everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right and the Colombian ultra-right", Maduro said the same day.

"This criminal dictatorship should leave Venezuela now", he tweeted.

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