Former Caracas prosecutor Franklin Nieves released a video [La Patilla report, in Spanish] Friday confessing to being pressured into presenting false evidence to condemn opposition leader Leopoldo López. The prosecutor claims [CNBC report] that he fled Venezuela with his family due to the pressure to continue to defend false evidence by the government of Nicolas Maduro to condemn the opposition leader. Nieves claims he was under continuing pressure to uphold the false evidence to protect the sentence of López on appeal [NYT report]. The former prosecutor also called on his fellow judges and prosecutors to tell the truth [abcblogs.es, in Spanish] and to raise their voices against the pressure to carry out the “whims” of their superiors. The opposition-umbrella coalition, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) [advocacy website, in Spanish]], has called [press release, in Spanish] for the immediate release of López and of 80 other political prisoners due to “vitiated” evidence.
López was sentenced to over 13 years imprisonment for arson, damaging property and inciting violence during anti-government protests [JURIST report] in Venezuela in 2014. López founded and leads the Popular Will Party [party website, in Spanish], which strongly opposes Maduro’s current government and United Socialist Party (USP) [party website, in Spanish]. The government’s actions during the nationwide protests drew strong worldwide criticism for the political violence. A report [text, PDF; press release] by Human Rights Watch in May 2014 claimed that Venezuelan security forces abused and unlawfully detained protesters [JURIST report]. Venezuela officially withdrew from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website] in 2013. In February 2014, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned [JURIST report] the political violence and urged the Venezuelan government to respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.