Court bars Luisa Ortega from leaving the country

Supreme Tribunal orders freezing of assets and travel ban on attorney general before a hearing in July.

    Court bars Luisa Ortega from leaving the country
    President Maduro is facing calls for him to step down amid increasing protests [Reuters]

    Venezuela's supreme court has slapped an asset freeze and travel ban on Attorney General Luisa Ortega, a top critic of President Nicolas Maduro, after she accused him of creating a "climate of terror".

    Ortega has emerged as the most critical voice within the Venezuelan government as the authorities have cracked down on anti-Maduro protests, leaving a death toll of 77 people in just under three months.

    Ortega, a strong critic of President Nicolas Maduro, has been called a "traitor" by the ruling Socialists since March when she opposed a bid by the Supreme Tribunal to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its powers. 

    The court, which is closely aligned with the embattled president, earlier approved proceedings against Ortega who is accused of allegedly committing "grave errors" in her role as the nation's top law enforcement official.

    A hearing has been set for July 4 to decide whether Ortega should face trial for alleged professional malpractice.

    Until her fate is decided, the court ordered her bank accounts and assets frozen, and banned her from leaving the country.

    Speaking in advance of the ruling, Ortega lambasted Maduro's government.

    "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," said Ortega, 59.

    "We have a constitutional rupture. The constitution is being violated and the state is being dismantled," she told journalists.

    TIMELINE: Key moments in Venezuela's crisis

    The condemnation came as Maduro vowed to fend off what he called a coup attempt, after a rogue police pilot allegedly dropped grenades onto the Supreme Tribunal from a stolen helicopter.

    Political analysts and Maduro's opponents said they suspected the incident was a hoax. But the leftist leader branded the "terrorist attack" a failed coup backed by the United States.

    Oil-rich Venezuela has slid off the rails since global crude prices collapsed in 2015, devastating its economy and causing severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.

    Last week, President Maduro fired four top military commanders and the head of the police as protests continued in the capital. 

    Maduro also announced the recruitment of 40,000 new police officers and national guardsmen, the BBC reported.

    Opposition leaders placed cardboard coffins and body bags at the gates of the National Guard headquarters after the killing of another protester.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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