Fernando Albán: Venezuela protests over jailed opposition lawmaker's death

Blanche Robertson
October 12, 2018

A jailed councilman in Venezuela arrested on suspicion of involvement in a failed assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro has died of suicide, the government said Monday.

The death sparked expressions of concern by the United Nations and the European Union, both of which called for a probe.

United Nations human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing her office was concerned by the news of Alban's death and because he had not been taken before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest as required under Venezuelan law.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is in Venezuela for meetings with Maduro and his opponents, called Alban's death while in the government's custody "disturbing".

"We are concerned about news of his death".

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas also called for an independent investigation into what it called Alban's "suspicious and violent" death.

"The EU reiterates its call to the Venezuelan government to release all political prisoners", added EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.

Authorities have arrested at least 30 people linked to the drone explosions on August 2, which injured seven soldiers.

The opposition First Justice party, for which Alban was a Caracas municipal counsellor, said he was murdered.

Venezuela's president survived an attack on his life during a military parade celebrating the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard in the capital of Caracas on August 4.

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The opposition and rights groups have said Maduro's administration is holding hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges meant to stifle dissent.

A second explosion was heard and then the assembled troops were seen breaking formation and scattering in panic.

Borges said on Twitter the "cruelty of the dictatorship ended the life of Alban".

The attorney general has promised a thorough investigation.

The opposition First Justice party, to which Alban belonged, said it was holding Maduro's government responsible. "We understand there are conflicting reports on what exactly happened", she said.

"Those of us who knew Fernando know that he could NEVER have acted against his life", he said on Twitter. On Monday, Mr Reverol said Mr Alban had also been investigated for "destabilising activities directed from abroad".

The city councilman's lawyer, Joel Garcia, told reporters it was too soon to confirm whether the case was a suicide.

While Venezuelans a year ago watched as dozens of youth were killed in violent street battles with security forces, the death of activists while in the government's custody is a fate more associated with the far deadlier dictatorships that dominated much of South America in the 1970s.

"There's no doubt this was an assassination", opposition leader Julio Borges said in a video from exile in neighboring Colombia, without providing evidence of his claim.

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