Linguist Rosa Amelia Asuaje was the main government witness in the 2015 trial against Leopoldo Lopez. Asuaje complied a 113-page report on Lopez’s speeches, and the report became the single most important piece of evidence for Lopez’s conviction. While the report did not find that Lopez had made overt calls for violence, judge Barreiros considered it proof that Lopez spoke with such passion and anger that some of his listeners may have been motivated to commit acts of violence.
Nearly a year after Lopez’s conviction, Asuaje has spoken to the media for the first time on her roll in the trial.
In an article published in Spain’s El Mundo, Asuaje blasts judge Barreiros for “manipulating” her testimony in order to find Lopez guilty. Asuaje made her case in an open letter which can be found here, in Spanish.
In the letter, Asuaje makes the following points clear:
- She claims that the 113-page report that she prepared for the court covering Leopoldo Lopez’s speeches should never have been taken as evidence, and that it was instead a purely technical piece that was devoid of any kind of judgement.
- She claims that the leap from what she stated in her report to finding that Lopez’s speech did in fact turn people to violence “is an unfathomable leap” that she never made.
- She quotes the judgement against Lopez, and cites a section in which Barreiros explains the finding of guilt by saying that Asuaje “found it evident that” Lopez’s speeches caused the violence. Asuaje claims that this is absolutely not true.
- She also points out that the ruling does not provide any evidence that Lopez did in fact commit the acts for which he stood trial, and that she believes that her “testimony” (which she points out she did not give) is what sealed the deal for Lopez.
- She writes that “at no time can a linguist establish a cause-effect relationship that this sentence pretends to establish”, and writes that the sentence is completely devoid of any actual evidence against Lopez.
Asuaje also commented on the overall poor quality of the writing found in Barreiro’s writing, not only from a grammatical standpoint but also from a logical one. Asuaje writes:
How can it be possible for a judicial text to lack the most basic argumentative logic, something that every criminal lawyer or judge should have?
She also clarified her findings were based on her analysis of the evidence provided to her by the Public Ministry of the trial, saying:
In the videos that I analyzed, Lopez’s speeches are wrathful and confrontational, but none of that is evidence that he made explicit calls for violence, much less that he gave instructions to murder 43 people.
Lopez was convicted entirely on the finding that his speeches directly caused the violence at the Public Ministry in Caracas on February 12, 2014, as well as the subsequent violence throughout the country that left at least 43 people died. While Lopez was not convicted of murder, Maduro and other PSUV officials often refer to him as “a murderer”.
On the role that her testimony played in convicting Lopez, Asuaje said:
I think that it is unbelievable that a case so important was not resolved with more evidence other than the qualified testimony of a linguist.
Asuaje also says that she believes that she has been turned into a scapegoat, and that she has been “demonized” by both the opposition and the government for her role in the trial.
El Mundo ended its article with words of concern from Asuaje, who said:
I am afraid of what might happen after this interview. What I’m telling you could cost me my life.
Asuaje is the latest key player in the Lopez trial to cast doubt on its legitimacy. Last year, one of the two prosecutors in the case – a man named Franklin Nieves – escaped Venezuela and told the Wall Street Journal that he had falsified evidence against Lopez under direct orders from superior.
Lopez Appeal Begins
Lopez’s appeal of his conviction began today at approximately 10:00 AM at the Palace of Justice in Caracas.
Lopez’s legal team gained two new members prior to today’s session: Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and Javier Cremades arrived in Venezuela yesterday from Spain in anticipation of today’s hearing.
Cremades said that they were denied access to Lopez, something that he considers “an act of violence” against his client’s rights. Cremades also spoke generally on his first impressions of the Venezuelan legal system, saying:
We arrived in Caracas yesterday and we continue to be in shock over the formalities that accompany the whole administration of justice in Venezuela. You’ve got a Palace of Justice that is flanked by two huge banners: one of a living president [Maduro] and one of a dead president [Chavez], along with political slogans.
As of the writing of this entry (3:00 PM EST time), the hearing is still ongoing.
Allup: Zapatero Talked TSJ out of Recall Cancellation
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup claimed today that former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero personally intervened in a plan that would have seen the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) cancel the recall referendum against Maduro. Zapatero is the leading figure in an effort to start a dialogue between the opposition and the PSUV.
Allup qualified his claim by saying:
[Zapatero] didn’t tell me this. He hasn’t talked to me about this, and I haven’t asked him about it. I don’t know why he did id. This information came to me from a source inside the TSJ which I trust.
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