Venezuela frees six political opponents | News | DW | 31.12.2016
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Venezuela frees six political opponents

Among those released were Manuel Rosales who was arrested in 2014 after returning from a self-imposed exile in Peru. The other prisoners were also arrested in 2014; they were protesting outside the UN offices in Caracas.

Venezuela has released a former opposition governor and presidential candidate from house arrest and freed five lesser known anti-government activists from prison.

Manuel Rosales (pictured), the one released from house arrest, tweeted the information to his countrymen.

Rosales was imprisoned in 2015 after returning to Venezuela from Peru, where he had fled six years earlier. At the time he was charged with illegally enriching himself by the government of the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. He was granted house arrest in October.

"I inform the people of Venezuela that I have been freed along with other political prisoners," Rosales wrote. "We continue fighting for the release of all the political prisoners and the return of those in exile."

Rosales is a former governor of Zulia state who ran for president in 2006 - he was freed before dawn Saturday along with five other activists who opposition groups consider political prisoners.

The five activists were released from prison on the condition that they not leave the country and appear periodically in court, according to lawyer Gonzalo Himiob of rights group Penal Forum.

Protests against Maduro

They had been arrested in 2014 when the opposition led a wave of protests pressing for President Nicolas Maduro's resignation.

Watch video 03:29

@dwnews - Anti-Maduro protesters take to the streets of Caracas

The most prominent activist released was Gerardo Carrero. He led a group of students who camped-out for weeks outside the United Nations offices in Caracas. They were trying to draw attention to a government crackdown on protests blamed for scores of deaths.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not comment on the releases.

The political opposition leaders claim Maduro's government is holding nearly 100 political prisoners who were unjustly jailed for protesting against his administration, including former mayor and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

International political figures have called for their release, including US President Barack Obama and South African Nobel peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Maduro maintains that the country doesn't hold political prisoners, and insists that those in jail were arrested for involvement in street violence or in plots to overthrow his government.

bik/se (Reuters, AP)

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