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Venezuela's Lopez returns to house arrest

August 6, 2017

The anti-Maduro activist had been behind bars for nearly one week after security forces dragged him out of his home. Lopez has vowed to continue fighting Maduro's efforts to re-write Venezuela's constitution.

Opposition leader Leopolo Lopez
Leopoldo Lopez photographed in 2014 prior to his incarceration Image: Imago/PanoramiC

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was returned to his home late Saturday after having spent nearly one week in prison after security forces of President Nicolas Maduro hauled him away in the middle of the night on August 1.

His wife Lilian Tintori announced his return home on Twitter and reaffirmed her and her husband's commitment to fighting Maduro's attempts to undermine Venezuelan democracy.

"We continue with more conviction and resolve to achieve peace and liberty in Venezuela," the activist wrote in Spanish.

Venezuelan authorities have not confirmed Lopez's return home but Spanish news service Agencia EFE reported that dozens of patrols from Venezuela's intelligence security force (SEBIN) and hooded officials descended on his home in Caracas following Tintori's tweet.

Fellow opposition leader and former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who also was taken from his home to prison the same day as Lopez, was released from jail earlier in the week. Security forces reportedly feared that the two had been planning to flee.

Lopez had been in prison for three years until July 8 of this year, when he was moved to house arrest. He was jailed in 2014 and served part of a nearly 14-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies, though international human rights organizations have described him as a political prisoner.

Venezuela police in Caracas
Around 125 people have died over four months as Venezuelan police crack down on protestersImage: picture-alliance/AA/C. Becerra

According to Lopez and Ledezma, more than 600 political prisoners remain behind bars.

Opposition to Maduro's assembly

Lopez is the founder of Popular Will, a political opposition party that challenges the policies of Maduro. He and other critics accuse the Venezuelan president of destroying the country's democracy though proposed reforms including changes to the constitution.

The national constituent assembly has been tasked with laying out the constitutional changes. The newly-inaugurated body, consisting of Maduro loyalists, was greenlighted after contested elections and met for the first time Saturday in Caracas amid opposition protests.

Read more: What is Venezuela's constituent assembly?

Maduro has called on the body to strip opposition politicians of their political immunity. On Saturday, the assembly also voted to remove outspoken Maduro critic Luisa Ortega from her position as the country's chief prosecutor.

On Sunday morning, the assembly installed a "Truth Commission" that will investigate occurrences of violence at opposition protests.

New pro-Maduro assembly convenes in Caracas

cmb/jlw (EFE, AP)