Venezuela prosecutor arrests opposition coordinator

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand guard at the entrance of a detention centre of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand guard at the entrance of a detention centre of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) in Caracas

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's top prosecutor said on Tuesday opposition activist Roland Carreno had been arrested, hours after opposition leader Juan Guaido denounced what he called the "forced disappearance" of the Popular Will party's coordinator.

Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab wrote on Twitter that Carreno had been detained for alleged "participation in conspirative plans against the democratic peace" and his office had assigned a prosecutor to the case.

Carreno was approached on Monday afternoon by unidentified people in vehicles without license plates, Popular Will said on Twitter. The party had been unable to confirm his location after that encounter, it added.

"He remains disappeared," Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled legislature, wrote in a separate post on Twitter. "We alert the world about his forced disappearance and we hold the dictatorship responsible for his physical and mental integrity."

Rights groups say the government of President Nicolas Maduro frequently arrests opposition adversaries, often without due process, and in some cases leaves them incommunicado for hours or days.

Venezuela's communications minister Freddy Nanez said he rejected the "campaign to discredit Venezuela's rule of law" in connection with Carreno's arrest.

"In Venezuela, guarantees, due process and the right to defense are respected, without exception," Nanez wrote on Twitter.

Popular Will said it had been unable to locate two men who were with Carreno when he was last seen.

Carreno's disappearance comes days after Leopoldo Lopez, one of the founders of Popular Will, left the residence of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, where he had taken refuge since April 2019 after escaping house arrest.

After Lopez's departure from the ambassador's residence, at least nine people were arrested. All Venezuelans, they included the residence's cook, two bodyguards and other employees.

Lawyers for the detainees said they were released between Sunday and Monday by the Sebin intelligence agency.

Lopez was detained in 2014 for leading anti-government protests. He was first held in a military prison and then at his residence in Caracas. He left the country over the weekend and traveled to Spain, where his family now lives.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Deisy Buitrago, writing by Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen; Editing by Tom Brown, Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast.)