Venezuela opposition leader moved to house arrest

Leopoldo Lopez was arrested in 2014 for 'inciting violence' and will serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

    Venezuelan jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was transferred to house arrest after spending more than three years behind bars in a military prison, Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal said on Saturday.

    A court statement said Lopez was granted the "humanitarian measure" for health reasons. It was instituted by court President Maikel Moreno, who agreed to evaluate the case due to "serious signs of irregularities."

    "Leopoldo Lopez is at his home in Caracas with (wife) Lilian and his children," Lopez's Spanish lawyer Javier Cremades said in Madrid. "He is not yet free, but under house arrest. He was released at dawn."

    READ MORE: Venezuela's attorney general refuses court summons

    The 46-year-old leader of the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party was arrested in February 2014 for allegedly inciting violence during anti-government protests, in which three people died and dozens were wounded.

    He was held for three and a half years at a military prison before sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.

    Cremades said the terms of Lopez's "house prison" mean he is to serve out his sentence at home and cannot leave.

    "It is a gesture of weakness of the Maduro regime and of the opposition's strength," Cremades said, referring to the embattled Venezuelan president. "It is a step forward and very positive news."

    Foreign governments and human rights groups have criticised Lopez's detention and prison sentence as politically motivated. A Venezuelan prosecutor on the case who later sought asylum in the United States has said he was ordered by the government to arrest Lopez despite a lack of evidence.

    Lilian Tintori, Lopez's wife, has campaigned in Venezuela and abroad to try to win freedom for her husband.

    In February she met President Donald Trump in the White House. Trump tweeted a photo of the Oval Office encounter and called for Lopez to be released "immediately."

    "It gives us great pleasure that Leopoldo Lopez is at his home with his family!" fellow opposition leader Henrique Capriles said via Twitter. "He must be given his full freedom, like all the political prisoners!"

    Venezuela has been rocked by months of near-daily protests again this year. There has been widespread discontent over President Nicolas Maduro's government amid shortages of basic goods, galloping inflation and allegations that Maduro is flouting democratic norms.

    At least 91 people have died in three months of street clashes between protesters and police, troops and government loyalists.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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