Post by PL
On 7/9/2017 1:05 AM, jat wrote: part of the story as usual
Leopoldo López, Venezuelan Political Prisoner, Is Released to House Arrest
By ERNESTO LONDOÑO JULY 8, 2017
RIO DE JANEIRO — Leopoldo López, Venezuela’s most prominent political
prisoner, was released from a military prison on Saturday morning and
transferred to house arrest in a surprise move that could invigorate
the protest movement against President Nicolás Maduro’s government.
Political allies and one of Mr. López’s lawyers described the release
as a sign that the government was starting to buckle in the face of
months of public demonstrations and growing diplomatic isolation.
“This is a step toward freedom, not just Leopoldo’s, but also a step
that brings all Venezuelans closer to freedom,” a lawmaker, Freddy
Guevara, told reporters outside Mr. López’s home, where supporters
chanted “Yes, we can!”
Jared Genser, an American human rights lawyer who has represented Mr.
López, said his client’s release was a unilateral concession by the
government that took Mr. López’s relatives and legal team by surprise.
“I see it as a pragmatic move by Maduro to release pressure he was
under that was disproportionately higher than the value of keeping him
in jail,” Mr. Genser said. “Now is the time for sustained pressure on
Maduro. Leopoldo’s transfer to house arrest confirms that the
relentless pressure is working.”
Mr. López, a charismatic Harvard-educated politician who has been out
of public view for more than three years, made a brief appearance on
Saturday afternoon outside his house, where throngs of supporters
gathered. He held up a Venezuelan flag, which he kissed at one point,
but made no public remarks. Mr. Genser said Mr. López was prohibited
from speaking publicly and giving interviews as part of the conditions
of his release.
But in a statement released by his lawyer, Mr. López said: “I am not
willing to give up my fight for the freedom of Venezuela. And if that
means that I must return to a cell in Ramo Verde, I am willing to do so.”
“Tomorrow,” he added, “is the 100th day of our struggle in the street
and that is where we will come together with the people. That is why
we call on all the people of Venezuela to go out again throughout the
country — strength and faith!”
Venezuela’s top court announced the news on Saturday morning in a
couple of posts on Twitter, calling the release a “humanitarian
gesture” and citing unspecified health problems of Mr. López’s. Later
in the day, Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuela’s defense minister, said
the release was evidence of the government’s commitment to “tolerance
The case has been the subject of intense political and diplomatic
negotiations since Mr. López, the founder of the political movement
Voluntad Popular, or Public Will, was arrested in the wake of large
street demonstrations in February 2014.
In September 2015, he was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison
for inciting violent protests. Human rights advocates assailed the
proceedings as unfair. Lacking firm evidence, prosecutors argued that
Mr. López had used subliminal messages to stoke violence.
Mr. López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, has been a relentless advocate for
her husband at home and abroad. She routinely posts videos to millions
of followers on social media accounts documenting her unsuccessful
attempts to visit her husband in the notorious Ramo Verde prison on
the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. In February, Ms.
Tintori met briefly with President Trump, who posted a photograph with
her on his Twitter account and called for Mr. López’s immediate release.
Mr. López’s relatives and lawyers have called his treatment in prison
cruel and appalling. They accuse prison staff members of keeping him
in solitary confinement for long periods and of withholding food at
It was unclear what negotiations led to Mr. López’s release from
prison. Javier Cremades, a Spanish lawyer who has been representing
Mr. López, said on Twitter that Mr. López had made no concessions.
“Giving Leopoldo López house arrest shows how desperate and divided
they are,” he wrote, calling the move “a sign of the weakness of a
regime that is cornered.”
The transfer comes after months of daily protests against Mr. Maduro’s
government that have left more than 90 people dead.
Ana Vanessa Herrero contributed reporting from Caracas, Venezuela.
A version of this editorial appears in print on July 9, 2017, on Page
A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Venezuelan Dissident
Released From Prison.