Venezuela Supreme Court bans attorney general from leaving country, freezes assets - and limits Social Media access | News | DW | 29.06.2017

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Venezuela Supreme Court bans attorney general from leaving country, freezes assets - and limits Social Media access

Venezuela's Supreme Court has said it will begin preliminary proceedings against Ortega next week. One of the government's most high-profile critics, Ortega is accused of failing to respect the court's decisions.

A preliminary hearing in the trial against Venezuela's Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, one of President Nicolas Maduro's most high profile government, critic has been scheduled for July 4, the country's Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

Ortega has been barred from leaving the country and had her assets frozen until her fate is decided.

Read more: Venezuelan attorney general faces charges for defying President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela's highest court had already approved legal proceedings against Ortega last week, after a member from the ruling Socialist party filed a lawsuit accusing her of failing to respect the court's decisions and committing serious professional malpractice.

Ortega denounced the court's announcement, accusing it abetting the Maduro government in dismantling the rule of law in Venezuela. She also said that the Public Ministry, of which she is the head, would ignore any further court rulings seeking to strip it of it responsibility to lead criminal investigations.

Attorney general branded a 'traitor' by Maduro's Socialists

Ortega was a political ally of Maduro's until earlier this year. She split with the party after the president sought to rewrite the constitution in a manner that would have effectively stripped the opposition-controlled legislature of its powers.

Her opposition to the proposal saw her branded a "traitor" by the ruling Socialist party.

Read more: 5 things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela

"We have state terrorism in Venezuela, where we have lost the right to protest, where demonstrations are cruelly repressed, where civilians are tried in military courts," Ortega said ahead of the ruling. "We have a constitutional rupture. The constitution is being violated and the state is being dismantled."

Although Maduro ultimately backtracked on the proposal amid mass public unrest, the animosity between Venezuela's president and the attorney general has remained fierce.

Venezuela on the brink

Like the political opposition, Ortega has also blamed Maduro for Venezuela's economic and political crisis. Depleting resources of basic goods, such as food and medicine, has prompted tens-of-thousands of anti-government protestors to take the streets over the last three months to demand immediate elections.

In many cases, the demonstrations have turned violent, with 77 people reported to have died.

Into Thursday morning DW reported that social media access was impossible across Venezuela. They reported having to use VPNs to access FB, Twitter, Instagam and YouTube. Social Media are the main tool for activists and protesters to communicate amongst themselves and with the outside world.

Political unrest, however, threatened to veer towards full-on civil war on Tuesday, after a rogue policeman allegedly dropped grenades from a stolen helicopter over the Supreme Court building.

Maduro vowed Wednesday to fend off what he described as a coup attempt, adding that the military had been put on high alert. "I have activated the entire armed forces to defend the peace," the president said in a broadcast transmitted from the presidential palace Wednesday.

He blamed the attack on Oscar Perez, a police pilot-turned-actor. Footage showed Perez ahead of the attack claiming that he and other officers would launch an "aerial deployment" in a bid to oust Maduro.

Opposition and analysts, however, have indicated that the incident may have been a hoax. Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuelan analyst at the UK economic research firm IHS Markit told the Agence France Presse news agency that "It is possible that the helicopter incident was organized by the government, whether to distract attention... or provoke a reaction from the middle ranks in order to continue purging the security forces."

Watch video 01:38

Venezuela Helicopter assault: Real attack or staged hoax?

dm/rg (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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