Baduel has insisted he is innocent and dismissed the accusation as a politically motivated reprisal for his opposition to Chavez.

Baduel retired in July 2007 after Chavez removed him from the defence minister post, and he quickly emerged as a prominent critic of the president.

He publicly opposed a package of constitutional revisions proposed by Chavez that would have enshrined socialist ideals in the constitution but were rejected by voters in 2007.

Chavez has denied going after opponents through the legal system, saying Baduel and other government critics are criminals who must face justice.