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Venezuela's Supreme Court declares congress decisions void

Venezuela's top court has said it will void any action taken by the country's legislature until three opposition lawmakers are removed from office. Opposition parties gained a majority in the parliament in December.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday the parliament would be rendered effectively powerless until it unseated three controversial lawmakers opposed to the administration of socialist President Nicolas Maduro (pictured).

The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) party won a

majority of seats

in the National Assembly in December, ending nearly two decades of socialist majority in the oil-rich South American country's main legislative body. Since then, Maduro has sought to curb the opposition's powers, and requested to suspend three MUD legislators over alleged misconduct.

The court has sided with Maduro, ordering the trio to vacate their seats, a move that also puts an end to the two-thirds majority MUD won in December.

Contempt of court

"Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null," the court said in a statement on Monday.

However, the legislature's speaker, Henry Ramos Allup,

defied the court

and swore the three lawmakers in anyway. This in turn prompted the court's latest move, which makes any actions taken by the National Assembly null and void until it removes the trio.

The court's decision also came hours after opposition members launched an investigation into the appointments of over a dozen judges to the Supreme Court. MUD had accused Maduro of stacking the court with his allies.

Until the end of last year, the socialists had held the National Assembly since 1999, when former President Hugo Chavez came to power.

The legislature was to sit on Tuesday, and the opposition bloc was planning to table an amnesty law for jailed activists.

blc/jm (AP, AFP)

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