Luisa Ortega 'fearing for her life' flees to Colombia

Dissident ex-prosecutor leaves Venezuela saying she feared for her life after her dismissal by pro-Maduro assembly.

    Ortega and Ferrer arrived in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday afternoon [File:Reuters]
    Ortega and Ferrer arrived in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday afternoon [File:Reuters]

    Venezuela's deposed chief prosecutor and her husband have fled the country after she was dismissed by a controversial new legislative super-body.

    Luisa Ortega Diaz and German Ferrer arrived in Bogota on Friday afternoon aboard a private plane travelling from Aruba, Colombian migration authorities said in a statement.

    Ortega, 59, broke with socialist President Nicolas Maduro in late March and became a vocal critic of his government, eventually going into hiding after her dismissal earlier this month.

    Ortega told Reuters news agency that she feared the government would "deprive me my life".

    READ MORE: Malaria infections spreading in crisis-ridden Venezuela

    It was not clear whether the couple were seeking asylum in Colombia.

    On Thursday, the government-stacked Supreme Tribunal ordered Ferrer, a legislator, placed under arrest, a day after Ortega's replacement, Tarek Saab, accused him of corruption.

    Saab said Ferrer ran a $6m extortion ring under Ortega's watch.

    Ferrer denied the accusations and critics believe the charges are politically motivated.

    Fear of reprisal

    In June, the Supreme Tribunal banned Ortega from leaving the country, ordered her bank accounts frozen, and put her on trial for alleged professional malpractice.

    Earlier on Friday, Ortega surfaced briefly from hiding to address by phone a gathering of Latin America's prosecutors in Mexico.

    Ortega told the region's prosecutors that Maduro removed her in order to stop a probe linking him and his inner circle to nearly $100m in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

    The company last year admitted in a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice to paying bribes to officials throughout Latin America in exchange for lucrative contracts.

    Ortega denounced the government takeover of the prosecutor's offices and said many of her colleagues have faced persecution.

    "Many have had to leave the country for fear of reprisal and for their lives," she said.

    Ortega first spoke out against Maduro in late March following a Supreme Tribunal decision to nullify the opposition-controlled congress, the National Assembly.

    She denounced the decision as a "rupture" of the constitutional order.

    The decision was later reversed amid widespread international criticism, but prompted a protest movement that has left more than 120 dead.

    READ MORE: New Venezuela prosecutor vows to jail protest leaders

    Earlier on Friday, the newly elected Constituent Assembly approved a decree giving it the authority to pass legislation, virtually nullifying the powers of the National Assembly.

    The move prompted further international condemnation from the dozens of countries that have already criticised the creation of the all-powerful assembly as an undemocratic power grab by Maduro.

    Assembly delegates pledged to go after opposition politicians.

    "We will teach them a historic lesson," said the Constitutional Assembly president, Delcy Rodriguez.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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