- `Leopoldo is innocent,' Nieves says in interview with CNN
- Public prosecutor has said Nieves pushed into making statement
A former Venezuelan prosecutor who says he participated in the case against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and then fled to the U.S. is rocking the South American country with allegations that the trial was fixed.
“Leopoldo is innocent,” Franklin Nieves said late Tuesday in an interview on CNN Espanol from Miami. “They jailed him because they feared his leadership. They violated his human rights.”
A Venezuelan court sentenced Lopez to almost 14 years in a military jail last month for inciting violence amid a wave of anti-government protests in 2014 that left 43 people dead and hundreds injured. Nieves said orders to detain and charge the opposition leader came directly from President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and that evidence had been fabricated.
Nieves first brought forward the allegations last week in a video published by opposition news website La Patilla. Lopez maintained his innocence throughout the trial and said he had only called for peaceful protests.
The closed-door trial spanned more than a year and garnered international attention from foreign leaders and governments who say Lopez’s imprisonment is unjust and politically motivated. The case become a cause celebre for rights groups who say his detention is evidence that the ruling Socialist party is increasingly cracking down on dissent. The U.S. and other foreign governments as well as the United Nations have called for his immediate release.
Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, told Colombia’s Caracol Radio today that the interview was “painful” to watch, but that she’d be willing to forgive Nieves for his involvement in her husband’s persecution.
“He’s a reflection of the unfair justice we have today,” she said. “He ratifies what we’ve been saying for a year and nine months: Leopoldo Lopez is innocent, he needs to freed immediately, it’s all a farce.”
Public prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz on Monday refuted Nieves’ claims and said the former prosecutor was being pressured by “foreign political factors” to make the allegations.
“I’d like to ask forgiveness for what we did,” Nieves said on CNN Espanol. “We were pressured to detain and convict Leopoldo.”
(A previous version of the story corrected the title of the Venezuelan official in first paragraph.)