Lorent Saleh, a political prisoner who was released from custody and exiled to Spain by the Maduro regime yesterday, made his first public statements today after more than four years in captivity.
Having landed in Madrid earlier today, Saleh spoke to journalists about his released, and about some of his experiences as a political prisoner.
On becoming aware of his release, Saleh said:
As with everything else that happens there, [I found out a day before]. They simply called my name. They took me out of my cell and they told me that I was going to start a new stage of my life, but I didn’t know what it was. They put me in a patrol car and they took me to the airport.
Saleh’s mother, who fiercely advocated on behalf of her son during the four years of his detention, was not informed of his release. When she found out, it was already too late for her to travel to the Maiquetia airport–which is located approximately 30 minutes outside of Caracas–to see her son before he boarded his plane to Spain.
Saleh also told reporters that he contemplated suicide while in detention in response to the torture which he suffered at the hands of his captors. Saleh said:
After the first year in prison, having been tortured, suicide [seemed like] the only defense mechanism [I had].
Sale also spoke about the fellow political prisoners that he left behind. Lamenting the fact that they are still “suffering, in prison, and with serious health problems”, Saleh promised to work to secure their release.
Below, images of Saleh upon his arrival in Spain, where he was welcomed by a group of Venezuelan well-wishers:
The crowd that was waiting for Saleh in Madrid sang the national anthem:
In the video below, an emotional Saleh thanks some of the people who advocated for his release, and called on all of them to continue their work until all political prisoners in Venezuela are freed:
Saleh: … and we can’t destroy that. We have to keep that bridge up so that many other people can be freed.
Really, thank you to the Spanish government. Thank you to the Venezuelan community here and around the world. Thank you, Beatrice and Isadora, for accompanying my mother during this struggle. Thank you, really.
Please, let’s [work to] release our friends who are still in there. There are innocent people in there who need to see the sun, and who need to see the night just as I will, tonight, for the first time in four years. I’m going to be able to see the moon!
On the fact that he is now living in exile, Saleh said:
No one can exile me because I will return soon.
Saleh was held in detention for over four years on allegations that he was planning a violent insurrection against the Maduro regime. His preliminary hearing was pushed back on 53 different occassions, meaning that the charges against him were never brought to trial.
Saleh’s mother, Yamile Saleh, was asked by a Miami news outlet if she was thankful to the Maduro regime for releasing her son. Yamile said:
I have nothing to thank the government for, because my son should never have been kidnapped because he is innocent (…) the preliminary hearing was postponed 53 times. He was kidnapped. I have nothing for which to thank them.
Guanipa Cites SEBIN Source, Stresses that Fernando Alban Was Murdered
Tomas Guanipa, a popular opposition figure and once-governor of Zulia state, spoke today on the death of Caracas city councilor Fernando Alban earlier this week while he was in regime custody.
Citing a source inside the regime agency under whose custody Alban died, the SEBIN, Guanipa stressed the point that Alban was murdered by his captors for his political work. Guanipa said:
He [Alban] went to the United Sates one week before he died with two key objectives: to visit his wife and children who live there, but also to accompany Julio Borges [a now exiled opposition leader] with the work that he was doing at the United Nations General Assembly. This was enough for the [SEBIN] to arrest him when he returned to Venezuela.
Guanipa, whose Primero Justicia (PJ) party included Alban, also detailed some of the torture that Alban suffered during his three days in detention:
They tortured him with a plastic bag to suffocate him, with water to try to approximate drowning, and with electricity (…) this is all information that has come from [inside] the SEBIN.
Alban was arrested at the Maiquetia International Airport by SEBIN agents on Friday, October 5. Alban had been part of Julio Borges’ entourage at United Nation’s General Assembly, which took place in late September.
Shortly after his detention, one of Alban’s lawyers told reporters that his client was being pressured into making false allegations against “higher ranking” opposition politicians, and specifically Julio Borges.
Borges, who heads the Primero Justicia party, was forced to flee the country earlier this year under mounting pressure from the Maduro regime. Last week, Bogota accepted his asylum request in Colombia.
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