Opposition lawyers press Caracas for release of political prisoners

    17 de mayo de 2018

    Caracas, May 17 (efe-epa).- Several attorneys on Thursday called for the establishment of a technical committee together with Venezuelan authorities to deal with the revolt by a group of "political prisoners" who they say have been "tortured."

    "We request the immediate formation of a technical committee, which should be comprised of the (Catholic) Church, the Public Ministry, the Ombudsman's Office, human rights organizations, representatives of the defense" of relatives and prisoners, attorney Alonso Medina Roa told reporters.

    The lawyer - who is a member of the Venezuelan Penal Forum, which has stationed itself outside the jail of the Sebin intelligence service in western Caracas along with attorneys and relatives of the prisoners - called upon the authorities for "sensitivity" and said that more than 24 hours has passed with the situation as is.

    Meanwhile, attorney Omar Mora Tosta said that on several occasions they have asked the authorities for information about the pending release without receiving any response.

    "This situation (needs to be) resolved peacefully and without any misfortune because there is the fear that (security) forces ... could enter the prisons and cause a massacre inside," he added.

    On Wednesday, prisoners being held at the Sebin detention center - where hundreds of people are being detained - staged a riot, taking over a portion of the facility, to demand freedom and rights for political prisoners.

    The "political prisoners" being held in the Sebin facilities are demanding to be released and have said that there are cases where inmates already have received release documents but have not been allowed to leave, adding that at least four minors are among those being held there, the Penal Forum said.

    Although Attorney General Tarek Saab said on Wednesday on Twitter that a commission from his office went to the Sebin headquarters to handle the situation, prisoners' relatives said on Thursday that no information has been provided to them.

    Saab announced on Thursday afternoon on Twitter that 72 prisoners being held at the Sebin detention center will be transferred to other centers, but it is not known whether any of the so-called "political prisoners" will be in that group.

    He said that those prisoners were being given medical exams by Sebin doctors in the presence of human rights officials prior to their transfer in the coming hours, but he provided no further details.

    A list of 16 people who allegedly are being held by Sebin but have received release documents has been circulating on the social networks.

    The prisoners, who have requested help from the Catholic Church and international organizations, are also asking for medical attention and to be separated from the common prisoners.

    Among those being held is US citizen Joshua Holt, who came to Venezuela in mid-2016 to marry a local woman whom he had met on the Internet.

    The US Embassy in Caracas has expressed its concern over the situation and charge d'affaires Todd Robinson went to the Foreign Ministry to ask for information without success.

    The opposition MUD coalition has joined with the demonstrators and announced that its representatives also will come to the Sebin HQ because it says that the physical integrity of the prisoners "is in danger."