Venezuela opposition lawmaker dies in prison


A Venezuelan councilman accused of planning the failed assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro has died while in detention. The government claims he committed suicide; the opposition insists he was killed.

Manuela Bolivar, a lawmaker and member of the First Justice party, takes photos of the Bolivarian National Security Service (SEBIN) headquarters

Venezuelan lawmaker Fernando Alban has died while in detention, the government said Monday, although the reasons for his death remain contested.

The regime said Alban, who was jailed last Friday, had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the state intelligence agency headquarters (SEBIN) where he was incarcerated.

“At the moment he was going to be transported to court, while he was in the SEBIN waiting room, he jumped from the window of the building and fell, causing his death,” Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in a post on Twitter.

Reverol’s account, however, differed from that offered by Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab, who said in a televised interview that Alban had asked to use a bathroom and subsequently jumped from the window.

The Venezuelan opposition, the Justice First party, of which Alban was a member, insisted that the councilman was killed and that the regime of President Nicolas Maduro was responsible.

“With great pain and thirst for justice we tell the people of Venezuela … that Councilman Fernando Alban was murdered at the hands of the regime of Nicolas Maduro,” the opposition said.

According to the opposition party’s coordinator Julio Borges, Alban’s lifeless body was then thrown from the SEBIN’s headquarters, located on Caracas’ Plaza Venezuela. Borges added that Alban was a devout Catholic and family man who would never consider killing himself.

The Organization of American States (OAS), a group of Western hemisphere countries, has condemned Alban’s death. “Direct responsibility of a regime that tortures and murders. This criminal dictatorship must go now from Venezuela,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro wrote on Twitter.


Alban’s disputed crimes

The Venezuelan government and the opposition have also disputed the reasons behind Alban’s arrest.

The regime has claimed the lawmaker was detained on suspicion of involvement in the failed assassination attempt on Maduro in early August using two exploding drones.

The opposition, meanwhile, said Alban’s arrest was owing to statements he made at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month in which he denounced human right violations in Venezuela.

Rights groups have accused the Maduro regime of intentionally stifling dissent by incarcerating hundreds of political opponents on trumped-up charges. A UN report found that political detainees are often subjected to mistreatment, including some documented cases of torture.

Venezuela, once a wealthy oil-producing nation, has been struggling for years from an unrelenting rise in inflation, shortages of food and medicine and declining oil production. Some 1.9 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, according to United Nations figures.

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