A decision in the Leopoldo Lopez trial looms this week as the prosecution made its closing arguments yesterday. Lopez is accused of arson, instigation and associating for the purposes of committing a crime over the events of February 12, 2014. If convicted, Lopez faces a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Prosecution attorneys spoke for almost three hours yesterday. While the state had no evidence that Lopez directly called for violence, the prosecution argued that Lopez had implied a call for violence “between the lines” of his speeches.
During the closing arguments, the prosecution presented new evidence: pictures of students accused of setting fire to the Public Ministry headquarters in Caracas on February 12. The defense objected to the highly irregular move – the prosecution must disclose all of its evidence before the start of the trial – but the judge sided with the prosecution.
The prosecution also blamed Lopez for Bassil Da Costa’s death, showing his last tweets in court along with a picture of the man killed on February 12. Da Costa was the first student to die in last year’s protests. The Public Ministry charged five SEBIN agents with his murder, along with Juan Montoya, another man killed on February 12.
Roberto Marreo, one of Lopez’s lawyers, summed up the defence’s stance on the trial:
This is a trial that has jumped to conclusions. The period of evidence was shortened, and today after seeing the prosecution’s conclusions we can confirm that all of the evidence they brought to trial confirm the innocence of Leopoldo Lopez. All of the testimony ensured his freedom and that of the students who are unjustly on trial. We did not see any evidence that linked Leopoldo to the events of which he is accused, and this defense has not doubt (…) that we will see a sentence of absolute and total freedom for Leopoldo.
Lopez will be given three hours to defend himself one final time before a verdict in the case is reached.
UNASUR Cancels Special Meeting, Colombia Threatens to Pull Out
Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Angela Holguin said that if UNASUR did not meet this week to discuss the Colombia-Venezuela border crisis, the country would stop attending the organization’s meetings. Holguin said:
If the UNASUR meeting doesn’t happen this week, we don’t think it’ll be worth it anymore.
Yesterday, UNASUR cancelled a meeting that was supposed to take place this week to discuss the issue since Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez is currently accompanying Maduro on a trip to China and Vietnam.
In a rare display of emotions, Holguin expressed her personal frustration with the apparent lack of support for the problem from international organizations, saying:
I feel alone. Human rights are being violated here and nothing happens (…) if we don’t call for a meeting, they’ll think the issue is not that big, but if this region doesn’t realize what’s going on, then it’ll get more complicated.
Holguin also said that Maduro still refuses to speak personally to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, but that he has sent Bogota messages through the Panamanian government.
People’s Defender: Allegations of Abuse are Not True
People’s Defender Tarek William Saab said today that Colombia should compensate Venezuela over the damages it has suffered through the border dispute, and suggested that allegations of abuse by Venezuelan authorities are not true.
We should be compensated for all of the damages that they have caused us; crimes, smuggling, paramilitary infiltration.
Speaking on recent comments by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office that women were being sexually abused by Venezuelan authorities as they fled the country, Saab said:
Provide evidence and names. If you have evidence, show it and hand it over to Venezuela (…) they put on a kind of show where they make people in the media defame Venezuela.
UN Team Meets on Essequibo Dispute
A United Nations mission is meeting with Guyanese President David Granger today to examine the country’s border dispute with Venezuela over the Essequibo region.
UN Diplomat Matha Doggett is in charge of the mission, which arrived in Georgetown on Saturday. She told media that the goal of the mission was to gain insight into Guyana’s point of view in order to better inform Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the matter. Ban is expected to meet with both Granger and Maduro at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
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