The United States has voiced deep disappointment over the conviction and sentencing of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Mr. Lopez was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison on charges which included inciting violence during anti-government demonstrations last year. This despite public calls by Mr. Lopez at the time that all protests should be peaceful. Reportedly, the criminal indictment against him included the bizarre claim that he had incited people to violence through subliminal messages. In addition, not a single witness testified on his behalf during court proceedings that lasted more than 600 hours.
Amnesty International, which regards Mr. Lopez as a prisoner of conscience, said his only so-called crime was being leader of an opposition party in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch called the case a “travesty of justice” in which conviction followed a prosecution that did not present basic evidence of a crime.
In a written statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision by the Venezuelan court “raises great concern about the political nature of the judicial process and verdict, and the use of the Venezuelan judicial system to suppress and punish government critics.”
Mr. Kerry noted that since Mr. Lopez’s arrest in 2014, the United States has “underscored our concern with the charges brought against Mr. Lopez – which we consider illegitimate – and we have repeatedly called for his release and for the release of all Venezuelans who are imprisoned for political reasons. We call on the government of Venezuela to respect the rights of all political prisoners; and to guarantee fair and transparent public trial, consistent with the American Declaration of the rights and Duties of Man, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the International covenant on civil and Political rights, and Venezuela’s Constitution.”
The White House also spoke out about Mr. Lopez’s case. National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that the “decision to prosecute and sentence Lopez, and the conduct of his trial, have highlighted significant failures in the rule of law and judicial system in Venezuela. Noting that “respect for the rights of citizens to engage in political discourse and express political views without risk of detention or harassment are essential to a functioning democracy,” Mr. Price called on the Government of Venezuela “to release Lopez, as well as all other political prisoners who remain unjustly detained.”