Supporters have rallied around the wife of Venezuela's jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, calling for peaceful protests after he received a sentence of nearly 14 years in prison for his role in deadly anti-government demonstrations.

The European Union denounced Friday's sentence as "harsh," while Washington said it was "deeply troubled" by the treatment of the US-trained economist.

The ruling, which critics say is politically motivated, is expected to fan tensions in Venezuela, where runaway inflation and shortages of basic goods fuelled last year's protests against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist administration.

Lopez was accused of inciting the violence that led to 43 deaths and about 3,000 people being wounded.

Judge Susana Barreiros found him guilty of "damage and arson, public incitement and conspiracy," the attorney general's office said, according to the AFP news agency.

'Great sacrifice'

Lilian Tintori, Lopez's wife, gave an impassioned speech on Friday before dozens of supporters in an eastern Caracas plaza, calling for people to take to the streets one week from Saturday, as the crowd chanted: "Yes we can!"

"I call on you," she said, to come out on September 19 "to build our victory, to take over the streets peacefully and democratically, with strict discipline and no violence".

Tintori, who spoke after visiting Lopez in prison, read a letter from her husband in which he said: "I do not regret the decision that I made. Great causes deserve great sacrifices."

Lopez will serve out his sentence in the military prison of Ramo Verde, where he has been held since he turned himself in shortly after the protests.

Source: AFP