Buenos Aires Times

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Lima Group, US condemn Venezuela's 'involvement' in activist's death

International community joins the chorus of condemnation over Fernando Alban's death while on police custody.

Thursday 11 October, 2018
Luz Alban, the sister of opposition activist Fernando Alban places a framed portrait of her brother during a solemn ceremony at the National Assembly headquarters, in Caracas, Venezuela
Luz Alban, the sister of opposition activist Fernando Alban places a framed portrait of her brother during a solemn ceremony at the National Assembly headquarters, in Caracas, Venezuela Foto:AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

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Questions and condemnation of Venezuela's leadership poured in this week following the suspicious death of an opposition councilman and activist who authorities say evaded justice by throwing himself from the 10th floor of a police building.

The Lima Group released a statement Tuesday, urging the Government of Venezuela to conduct an immediate, impartial, and independent investigation to clarify the facts and circumstances that caused Fernando Albán’s death.

“The group endorses its condemnation of the systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the political persecution, and the existence of political prisoners in Venezuela,” reads the statement.

The states – Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Saint Lucia – also reiterated their decision to make every possible diplomatic effort to restore democratic order, respect for human rights, and the full application of the rule of law in the region.

A day after, the United States government issued a statement condemning the Maduro's regime for its alleged involvement in Albán’s death.

The White House also called for the release of all Venezuelan political prisoners and for Maduro’s government to “to re-establish democracy in Venezuela and to prevent further suffering and bloodshed,” adding that US President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to increase pressure over the issue.

'Disturbing'

Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Albán's death while on government's custody "disturbing."

"The government has a responsibility to ensure all understand how that could have happened," Corker said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the United Nations have urged Caracas to launch an impartial probe to resolve the conflicting versions of Albán’ death.

“There are so many different reports and quite a lot of speculation on exactly what happened," said UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. "Whether Mr. Albán committed suicide, whether he was thrown, or what exactly happened."

According to Shamdasani, the UN itself will investigate the death as part of a wider investigation on the Venezuelan intelligence police’s human rights abuses.

'Killed himself'

Municipal lawmaker Fernando Albán, 56, was taken into custody on Friday at Caracas' international airport upon arriving from New York, according to his lawyer, Joel García. He was in the US with other members of the opposition group Primero Justicia ("Justice First") to denounce human rights violations in Venezuela at the United Nations General Assembly.

The country's Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab said Albán killed himself Monday by leaping from the 10th floor of the state police agency's headquarters, where he was being held for alleged involvement in an international plot to kill Maduro using explosive-laden drones.

Speaking on state TV, Saab said Albán was in the waiting room of the headquarters of Venezuela’s intelligence police waiting to be transferred to a courthouse when he asked to use the bathroom. He then threw himself from the 10th floor of the building.

But Alban’s lawyer and opposition leaders denied the official version.

'Assasination'

"Albán is a very Christian person, with deep spiritual convictions that go contrary to a decision to take one's life," replied Garcia, who said he met his client the night before the process.

“There’s no doubt this was an assassination,” the opposition leader Julio Borges said in a video from Colombia, where he’s currently living in exile. “The only thing left for this government is torture, violence and destruction.”

Borges said Albán’s wife told him that her husband had been under intense pressure to testify in the ongoing investigation into the alleged plot in early August.

More than two dozen people have been jailed on suspicion of involvement in the plot, which Maduro claims was orchestrated by Borges with the support of Colombia and the US.

The opposition claims that more than 100 Venezuelans opposed to Maduro are being held as “political prisoners,”with little access to the outside world and their legal rights routinely violated. The government denies they are political prisoners.

- TIMES/AGENCIES

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