Maduro’s Constituent Assembly stripped four opposition legislators of their diplomatic immunity today, and charged them with a series of crimes, alleging that they were involved in a plot to overthrow the government.
The targeted legislators are Jorge Milan (Primero Justicia, PJ), Hernan Claret Aleman Perez (Accion Democratica, AD), Carlos Alberto Lozano Parra (Camina, CA), and Luis Stefanelli Barjacoba (Voluntad Popular, VP).
The Constituent Assembly’s decision came shortly after the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s apex court, issued a ruling accusing the four of the following crimes:
- Treason against the homeland
- Instigating an insurrection
- Civil rebellion
- Associating for the purposes of committing a crime (concierto para delinquir)
- Usurpation of official functions
- Instigating the public to disobey
- Hatred (odio continuada)
The charges stem from allegations that the deputies were involved in a plot to overthrow Maduro this past weekend. The allegations have not been proven, and follow a long-established pattern in which the regime accuses legislators as an excuse to strip them of their parliamentary immunity and persecute them.
In a majority of cases, the accusations never reach the courts, but the targets are still stripped of their immunity and persecuted, forcing some into exile. In other cases, such as the one of deputy Juan Requesens, the target languishes in prison while the case crawls its way through the judicial system.
Arguably the most well-known political persecution of the Maduro era was that of VP head Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested and tried in 2014 for allegedly committing a set of terrorism-related offences in connections to that year’s anti-government protest movement. Lopez was eventually sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.
Luisa Ortega Diaz, the attorney general who oversaw his prosecution, and one of the prosecutors who tried Lopez later admitted that the case against him had been completely fabricated, and that Lopez was not guilty.
Maduro created the Constituent Assembly in 2017, hand-picking its members in a a bid to create a body that would supersede the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. While the Constituent Assembly’s job is to draft a new constitution, the body has made virtually no progress on that front and is instead largely focused on enabling the persecution of opposition politicians.
The last time that Venezuela held a Constituent Assembly was in 1999; it met for approximately five months before it drafted a new constitution and was then dissolved.
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