Most of the political prisoners released this weekend didn’t have a clear idea about their precautionary conditions [medidas cautelares]—the ones that establish that they aren’t fully free.
There are many political prisoners we don’t know about, whose families have no access to the press, neglected within the anonymity of group arrests.
The unnecessary humiliation of the group that was forced to listen to Delcy Rodríguez in the Casa Amarilla was only the tip of the dictatorial iceberg: There was also the omission of truth that includes disregarding the criminal liabilities arising from the abuses that each political prisoner had to endure; the refusal to comply with dozens of judicial rulings (from protective measures to release warrants), especially considering how the health of many prisoners has significantly worsened. This is the fifth truth commission created by the government since 2002, and none of its predecessors yielded any memorable results.
This batch of “releases” includes people from many different backgrounds, a testament to the magnitude of the tragedy of political prisoners in Venezuela. At chavismo’s sole discretion, hundreds have been imprisoned with impunity, from hot dog vendors to MUD advisors. There are many political prisoners we don’t know about, whose families have no access to the press, neglected in the anonymity of group arrests, unreported for fear of reprisal, a phenomenon we’ve known for a long time due to the victims of robberies, kidnappings and murders. This is a brief description of their tragedies, divided into the groups in which they were released.
1. & 2. Francisco Alejandro and Francisco José Sánchez: twin brothers and Primero Justicia activists. Arbitrarily arrested, victims of forced disappearance, tortured and publicly scorned by Nicolás with a recorded confession that the Prosecutor’s Office refused to disseminate.
3-14. Released Polichacao officers: Venus Medina, María Pérez, César Mijares, Ángel Sánchez, Alfredo Chirinos, Jorge Delgado, Ever Meneses, Darwin Herde, Miguel Mora, Eduardo Salazar, Jhony Velásquez and Edgar González. Still in custody: Fred Mavares and Reggie Andrade. Arrested on June 22, 2016, for allegedly masterminding the murder of journalist Ricardo Durán, according to SEBIN chief Gustavo González López. They went to SEBIN headquarters willingly and were detained. A month later, the prosecutors in charge of the case didn’t find evidence to support González López’s theory and ordered their release with precautionary measures, a decision the court’s clerk was unable to deliver because SEBIN claimed not to be authorized to receive the release warrant. Later, the Attorney General’s Office pushed for the warrant’s nullification, a request which was dismissed by the Appeals Court. In January 2017, the Court ratified the release warrant and once again, SEBIN ignored it. They were beaten, tortured and isolated
- Alfredo Ramos: the Supreme Tribunal’s Constitutional Chamber removed him from his elected office of Mayor of Iribarren (Lara state) and sentenced him to 15 months in prison for refusing to comply with a ruling demanding him to ban protest roadblocks in his jurisdiction. Additionally, he was politically disqualified and barred from leaving the country.
- Carlos Pérez: arrested for protesting on May 8, 2014, when the GN carried out an operation to dismantle the camp set up in front of PNUD offices. The 48th Court of Control of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas sentenced him to prison. He’s been experiencing hypertension crises.
- Alejandro Zerpa: student arrested on June 17, 2015, when he chose to go willingly to El Helicoide, where he was detained, accused of allegedly funding terrorism.
- Juan Miguel de Sousa: Computer science engineer, he was arrested by SEBIN after they raided his home on January 21, 2015, accused of handling the Twitter account @enyukote. Healthcare professionals have recommended cardiological attention due to the hypertension he suffers. He’s also suffered lung infections.
- Andrea González: pastry cook, arbitrarily arrested on August 17, 2015, accused of funding terrorism. After three postponements, a hearing was finally held on January 27, 2016, ordering her trial, but her case file was suspended during the court distribution process, so she was never assigned a court or a date for the trial. Winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
- Betty Grossi: teacher arrested on August 17, 2015, accused of funding terrorism. Her case file was also suspended during the court distribution process, she wasn’t assigned a court or a date for the trial. Winner of the Sakharov Prize.
- Carmen Estalia Salazar: during a press conference on May 9, 2017, vice-president Tareck El Aissami called her a terrorist, along with several other people, in the wake of Plan Zamora investigations on protests. He specifically accused Carmen of providing supplies and food for protesters.
- Danny Gabriel Abreu: student at UCV (Central University of Venezuela), arbitrarily arrested on August 17, 2015, accused of funding terrorism. After three postponements, a hearing was finally held on January 27, 2016, ordering her trial, but her file was suspended in the distribution process, she wasn’t assigned a court or a date for the trial. Winner of the Sakharov Prize.
- Rafael Liendo: arrested on October 19, 2016 for using Twitter. SEBIN ignored the Court order granting him a measure in substitution of imprisonment, along with the demands from the Ombudsman’s Office and international institutions regarding his case.
- Víctor Ugas: journalist arrested in Carúpano, for allegedly distributing pictures of Robert Serra’s corpse, for which he was accused of the crimes of undue dissemination of information and digital espionage. A court ordered his released on July 9, 2015; SEBIN ignored court’s ruling, which was later overruled.
- Ronny Navarro: journalist arrested in 2014 for protesting at the camp set up in the Alfredo Sadel square in Las Mercedes, accused of criminal association and obstruction of public roads. He was ordered to report before Court, which he promptly did, but in June 2014, SEBIN arrested him in Maiquetía Airport while on his way to Zulia state. Without evidence, the Prosecutor’s Office argued that he meant to cross the border to Colombia. In September, 2014, the 20th National Prosecution indicted him for plotting a rebellion.
- Leonel Sánchez: economist arrested on August 21, 2014 during a raid in his home in Barinas, for allegedly handling the Twitter account @AnonymusWar. He was indicted for instigating hate, assault and conspiracy, among other crimes unrelated to his tweets. The preliminary hearing to begin his trial was suspended several times.
- Andreas Días del Nogal: cameraman arrested on February 18, 2017, for allegedly using drones to record the protests #NoMásDictaduraEnVzla, called by Voluntad Popular on the 3rd anniversary of Leopoldo López’s arrest. Voluntad Popular remarked there were no drones during the event.
- Marco Rada Ríos: lawyer arrested on September 26, 2016 for using Twitter. The irony is that all the information about the case was shared on Twitter by SEBIN chief Gustavo González López, accusing Rada of terrorism for his tweets and claiming that he was being supported from abroad to write his “messages of hate and terrorism.” A court ordered his release because the accusation of terrorism was never proven. SEBIN ignored it all the same.
- Jorge De Castro González: arrested without a judicial warrant on October 24, 2016, because of three tweets he wrote to Nicolás Maduro, Cilia Flores and Freddy Bernal. On October 27, judge Emilio Camacho granted him freedom under reporting regime every 60 days. SEBIN didn’t comply with the court ruling.
- Alexander Sierra: cook and singer, arbitrarily arrested in Altamira on June 24, 2015. He was the victim of forced disappearance.
- Miguel Cegarra: hot dog vendor arrested by the GN, accused of terrorism and for allegedly participating in the assault against the Judiciary’s Executive Directorate (DEM) in April 2017. He was sent to the 26 de Julio prison (San Juan de los Morros,) subjected to cruel treatment and isolation. The Prosecutor’s Office didn’t find evidence of his crimes and reduced the charges against him: alleged criminal association and alteration of public order. The Prosecutor’s Office requested that his sentence be modified, but courts always have the final say.
- Luis Ospina: coffee vendor in Chacaíto, arbitrarily detained on April 8, 2017, for his alleged involvement in the vandalism against DEM. Held in the 26 de Julio prison. He has no relation with Cegarra nor with the rest of the people arrested for the DEM case. He was indicted for violent damage of property and criminal association.
- Santiago Guevara: economist arbitrarily arrested on February 21, 2017, this 65-year old university professor was handed a summons to appear before the Prosecutor’s Office by Military Counterintelligence agents who went to his home. He willingly complied with the summons and was arrested and held in isolation for two days. On February 23, the First Court of Control of the Martial Court of Fuerte Tiuna sentenced the professor to prison, accusing him of military rebellion. He’s been news several times due to his health caused by the terrible conditions of his imprisonment and the abuses he’s had to endure. On December 1st, Guevara was granted protective measures by the IACHR which the Venezuelan State ignored.
- Jhonsman Paredes: student arrested on September 18, 2014. accused during a cadena of the crimes of conspiracy and rebellion, for his alleged involvement in a plan to create commotion during that year’s protests.
- Roberto Picón: engineer, arbitrarily arrested on June 22, 2017, after a house where he was meeting with MUD politicians was raided without a judicial warrant. This MUD electoral consultant was indicted for treason, military rebellion and stealing military equipment. Runrunes’ investigative unit released a report detailing all the irregularities in his case, including the fact that he was prosecuted by military courts; he was imprisoned in a bathroom and no evidence was found against him despite the regime’s slander campaign.
- Carlos Pereira: 19-year old student, arrested on June 12, 2017, as part of the group of people allegedly involved in the assault against DEM offices, accused of violent damage to property, intentional homicide, possession of incendiary substances, public instigation, criminal association and arson. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer. His mother’s testimony during a protest was heartbreaking.
- Carlos Julio Velasco: high-schooler arrested on June 12, 2017, linked to the same DEM incident. Imprisonment badly compromised his health, and he’s now suffering from epididymal cysts, hydrocele, nephritic colics, intercostal neuritis, gonalgia and depression. Despite the complexity of his condition, the State denied him medical attention in several occasions, an abuse that his family has repeatedly condemned.
I couldn’t find any information on these four prisoners: Ángel Marrufo, Edgar Vargas, Jhon Castillo and Alfredo Ocanto; this brings the total to 41 prisoners who have been “released” thus far.
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