The prisoners of La Tumba (“The Tomb”), the notorious underground prison operated by the regime’s political police, staged a mutiny at the installation starting early this morning, and appear to be in control of the facility as of the writing of this post.
La Tumba is located in the SEBIN headquarters in Caracas, in the basement of a building called El Helicoide. La Tumba houses high-profile political prisoners.
While details are scarce, it appears as if the mutiny began at around the same time that SEBIN agents nearly beat one of the prisoners to death.The beaten prisoner is a university student named Gregory Sanabria, who was arrested during the 2014 anti-government protests in Tachira state.
In videos posted on social media, the prisoners claim to be staging the mutiny due to the fact that many of them have been held in the prison for years without seeing a judge, and that others have release orders that their captors are ignoring.
In some of the videos, the prisoners demand to speak to attorney general Tarek William Saab so that they may voice their grievances to him in person. As of the writing of this update, Saab has said that he will not speak to the prisoners, but that members of his office will.
News of the mutiny appears to have broken from National Assembly deputy Adriana Pichardo, who posted two images of a severely beaten Sanabria at around 1:00 PM:
I have been told by relatives and lawyers of a developing situation in El Helicoide involving beaten and injured political prisoners. We demand that their human rights and physical integrity be respected.
Daniel Colina, a lawyer and journalist, tweeted the following message shortly after 1:00 PM:
Intelligence sources tell me that there is a mutiny underway at the SEBIN [headquarters in] El Helicoide. “They beat Gregory Sanabria and there was an uprising”. They’re also protesting about transfers, and for the illegitimate detention of those whose release has been ordered.
The video below allegedly shows the start of the mutiny. In the video, prisoners run amok through the halls of the prison. Some of them carry sticks, and can be seen destroying lights:
The video below shows inmates helping Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal, break out of his cell:
At 3:15 PM, the prisoners posted a video message for the outside world,. The video appears to feature three notable political prisoners: Daniel Ceballos (blue), Lorent Saleh (red), and General Vivas (green). Below, the video along with my translation:
Lorent Saleh: We are here even though they’ve shot at us and thrown tear gas at us. What we’re asking is clear and simple: we will only speak to attorney general Tarek El Aissami [sic]. We want the attorney general here. We want two things…
Man in Blue: Two things! The first is the immediate release of all political prisoners in this country. Venezuela is full of political prisoners who are innocent, who were never taken to court or found guilty, who have been kidnapped [by the government] all around this country. There is no justice. They’re rotting in regime jails. We want their freedom immediately.
Also–that’s not enough. We are surrounded by hundreds of prisoners here, people, Venezuelans who have never had access to justice. They have not been taken to trial. Their trials are [unintelligible]. These are people whose release has been ordered, sick people, youths. They’ve been kidnapped, held in this building that is today our castle. We’ve taken it over today. We will remain here in peace. We want to avoid a bloodbath, so we are asking their release, and for the attorney general to come stand up for the rights of those of us who are here.
Lorent Saleh: [The SEBIN] are armed, and they’re ready to massacre us. The SEBIN’s commandos are ready to massacre us.
This isn’t just about us. This is for the prisoners held in [name of jail], in La Tumba, the prisoners in the DGCIM [the military counterintelligence service], all of the prisoners who have been–
Man in Blue: Here is Gregory Sanabria. He was beaten. His face was disfigured in this prison. This is a young man who has not had a trial, who has been kidnapped by the government of Nicolas Maduro. This is what happened to him. We will not stand by this. We’d rather die!
Loren Saleh: We are ready!
Gregory Sanabria: We’d rather die with dignity! We’d rather die with pride, knowing that we have lived an honest life, than to endure any more of this.
Later in the afternoon, the prisoners posted another video, this one featuring General Vivas and another man. The other man, in green, has a piece of paper pinned to his shirt. The piece of paper is a release order from a court, which has evidently been ignored by the SEBIN. Below, the video along with my translation:
General Vivas: … years of struggle, and that my word has weight. It is a fact that this is a lie that the dictatorship has made up to justify a massacre, so that they can break in here and use disproportionate force to murder many of us. As Mr. [unintelligible] said, this is a peaceful takeovers. There are no weapons here, just political prisoners and others who want due process; the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela, and due process for everyone here.
There is no massacre here in El Helicoide. There are–how many prisoners are here?–400 people here, many of whom are sick and injured who are not receiving medical attention. Here is one of them:
Man in Green: What we have to make clear here is that this is a demonstration of resistance, which is constitutional and legal. Many of us here have release orders. They are not taking us to court because they know that we will be released. There are many prisoners here who’ve been here for more than two years [without going to trial]. All we want is justice!
U.S. Citizen Among Revolting Prisoners
Joshua Holt, a U.S. citizen in detention since 2016, is among the prisoners who mutinied in La Tumba today.
Holt posted a short clip on Twitter in which he called on the United States to help secure his release.
The video is the first public appearance that Holt has made since he was arrested in 2016.
Holt was 24 years old when he flew to Venezuela to marry his fiance. Holt was arrested during his honeymoon after regime authorities claim to have found weapons in his room.
A witness claimed at the time that she saw the authorities plant the weapons in Holt’s room.
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