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Venezuela's former mayor of Caracas faces conspiracy charges

Government critic Antonio Ledezma faces up to 26 years in prison if found guilty, his lawyer told local media. The former mayor was held in 2015 at the military facility housing political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez.

In a statement, Venezuela's public prosecutor late Monday night said opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, a former mayor of Caracas, faces charges of conspiring to destabilize the country through violence.

According to the ex-mayor's lawyer Omar Estacio, Ledezma faces two charges - one of conspiracy and another of criminal association - that could land him up to 26 years in prison.

"They just admitted two charges against Antonio Ledezma for alleged crimes that carry a prison sentence of 26 years in prison," Estacio told Spanish-language news channel Globovision.

The opposition leader has vehemently criticized Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro's policies as well as his predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Ledezma was arrested in February 2015 and held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas, where another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, is being kept. In April, Ledezma was placed on house arrest after suffering from a hernia.

In September, Lopez was jailed for 13 years on charges of inciting anti-government protests that led to deadly violence and left more than 40 people dead.

"Today they seek to condemn another innocent man," said Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, in a tweet.

After 17 years of a socialist majority in the National Assembly, the opposition coalition MDU assumed power in January in the legislature.

A crumbling economy resulting in limited access to basic amenities has fomented social unrest in the South American nation.

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ls/jm (Reuters, EFE)

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