Venezuela charges two US citizens for foiled ′terrorist invasion′ | News | DW | 08.05.2020
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Venezuela charges two US citizens for foiled 'terrorist invasion'

The former US soldiers will face charges of terrorism and conspiracy, for allegedly attempting to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. If convincted, they could be jailed for up to 30 years.

Venezuela has charged two US citizens with terrorism and conspiracy for allegedly taking part in an attempt to capture President Nicolas Maduro, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said on Friday.

The two, who were identified as Luke Denman, 34 and Airan Berry, 41 — both former US soldiers — will be charged with "terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and [criminal] association," and could face 25-30 years in prison, according to Saab.

Denman and Berry were among 31 people arrested following a coastal incursion attempt last weekend. Eight people were reported to have been killed in fighting between the alleged invaders and security forces. 

Saab said Venezuela had also requested an international arrest warrant for the capture of Venezuelan opposition adviser Juan Jose Rendon, who is accused of signing the invasion contract, as well as former US army medic Jordan Goudreau, who allegedly coordinated the plan and trained the attackers. 

He added that his office would seek arrest warrants for 22 more people suspected of participation in the alleged plot.

Read more:Displaced Venezuelans face poverty and pandemic in Colombia 

Nicolas Maduro speaks over equipment he says was used in a botched raid to capture him (picture-alliance/AP Photo)

Maduro displayed equipment used in the botched raid in a televised address on Monday

US denies involvement

Last week, Maduro publicized a video in which a man identifying himself as Denman said Goudreau had tasked him with training Venezuelans in Colombia. In the video, the person said that acting under orders from US President Donald Trump, the group had planned to secure Caracas airport so that a plane could be sent to take Maduro to the US.

Saab said that Venezuelans involved in the alleged invasion would be tried for "conspiracy with a foreign government," while Maduro has accused Trump of being behind the invasion.

Trump rejected the accusation, however. "If I wanted to go into Venezuela, I wouldn't make a secret about it," he told Fox News on Friday.

"I'd go in and they would do nothing about it. They would roll over. I wouldn't send in a small little group. No, no no. It would be called an army," he said. "It would be called an invasion."

The White House National Security Council echoed Trump's denial in a statement on Twitter, saying if the US had been involved it would have been "overt, direct & effective."

Botched 'mercenary invasion'

Venezuela on Monday announced that it had arrested Denman and Berry, and on Wednesday Maduro, who displayed the pair's passports on state television, said they would be tried. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the government would "use every tool available" to try to get them back. 

On May 3, Venezuela said that an armed group launched a pre-dawn invasion by boat , attacking the port city of La Guaira, in what officials dubbed a "mercenary invasion" made by "terrorists" in speedboats. The attempt to overthrow Maduro was quashed by armed forces and police, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced on the same day.

Under Maduro, Venezuela has been mired in a six-year economic crisis, exacerbated by crippling US sanctions, which has seen the deterioration of public services such as water, electricity and medical shortages. 

The US and more than 50 other countries recognized opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido as the nation's legitimate leader. However, Maduro is still backed by the country's armed forces, and nations including China and Russia.

Watch video 02:48

Venezuela's gas shortage compounds humanitarian crisis

lc/dr (dpa, AFP) 

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