Rights advocates: Venezuela releases 20 political prisoners
CARACAS, Venezuela – The Venezuelan government freed 20 jailed activists Friday who opponents of the socialist administration considered political prisoners, human rights advocates said.
Officials arrested them earlier this year while protesting power outages, said Laura Valbuena, a lawyer with the rights group Foro Penal.
President Nicolas Maduro a day earlier called for some prisoners to be released during a speech celebrating his re-election as leader of the crisis-wracked country marked by shortages of food and medicine that have driven hundreds of thousands to flee into neighboring nations.
Maduro won a second, six-year term in an election Sunday that his closest challenger called illegitimate and Venezuela’s leading opposition parties boycotted as fraudulent.
In his speech, Maduro urged pro-government lawmakers to let some detainees go in a gesture to reunite politically fractured Venezuela. The president ruled out the release of prisoners accused of homicide.
Foro Penal’s director, Alfredo Romero, said the government still holds more than 350 people who are deemed political prisoners by foes of Maduro.
Romero said that in the last several days, officials had arrested 25 other critics of the government, many from the ranks of Venezuela’s military.
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