Venezuelan violinist detained over anti-Maduro protests

Violinist Wuilly Artiaga is facing years in prison after he was arrested and charged with instigating violence.

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    Thousands protest online and on the streets nearly every day against the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, but one protester has stood out as a national symbol.

    You may remember him. Amid tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, Wuilly Arteaga is known for protesting with just one thing in his hands: his violin.

    He has known for playing music, even the national anthem, on the front line of protests against corruption in Caracas.

    Now it has been two weeks since anyone has heard from him after he was arrested. The hashtag #FreeWuillyArteaga is trending in Venezuela to try to get him home.

    He was first attacked on July 22 during a protest. His lawyer, Alfredo Romero, says national guardsmen lit Arteaga's hair on fire and beat him with his violin.

    The 23-year-old later posted this video from his hospital bed, saying: "Neither rubber bullets nor pellets will stop our fight for Venezuela's independence. Tomorrow I will be back in the streets."

    Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman spoke to Arteaga a few days later. He said: "Despite my fear, I have more strength like every Venezuelan who has demonstrated in these months of protests. Until Maduro calls for free elections, until we can say we have conquered our freedom, we can’t rest."

    A few hours after that interview on July 27, Arteaga was arrested.

    On July 31, the day of the election, he was charged with inciting unrest and carrying an incendiary device. His lawyer says it was just his violin.

    Some are using Arteaga to draw a distinction between what life should be like as a Venezuelan and what life is actually like under President Maduro.

    Amid the corruption allegations, the violin is slowly becoming a symbol of this revolution. A broken one at that.

    At least 120 people have died and hundreds more have been jailed since Venezuela's four-month crisis started.

    Arteaga’s Twitter account is still active. He has more than 36,000  followers, but only follows one person: the pope.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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