Venezuela opposition’s Leopoldo Lopez hands himself in

The moment Leopoldo Lopez handed himself in amidst the crowds

A Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has handed himself over to the National Guard after holding a speech to thousands of his supporters.

He said he hoped his arrest would wake up the country to its “unjust justice”.

It comes as several thousand of pro- and anti-government supporters took part in tense rival rallies in the capital, Caracas.

Mr Lopez was wanted on charges of inciting violence during recent street protests which left at least four dead.

Speaking before thousands of his supporters wearing red, President Nicolas Maduro said Mr Lopez would be brought to Justice.

‘Sedition’

“He must answer before the prosecution, the courts, the laws his calls to sedition, his unawareness of the constitution,” Mr Maduro told the crowd.

Tensions have been running high in the deeply polarised country.

Three of the dead – two anti-government protesters and one government supporter – died of bullet wounds sustained during demonstrations last Wednesday.

Another student died after being ran over during a march on Monday night in the eastern city of Carupano.

Before handing himself over to the authorities, Mr Lopez denied the charges against him.

“I present myself to an unjust judiciary. They want to jail Venezuelans who want peaceful, democratic change,” he said.

Ahead of the rallies, Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez warned that he had not authorised Tuesday’s opposition march.

General view of a march following Leopoldo Lopez in Caracas on 18 February, 2014 Supporters of Mr Lopez turned out in force in Caracas on Tuesday
A man holds a banner reading "24,763 violent deaths in 2013 - we are more than just figures" Anti-government protesters are angry about Venezuela’s homicide rate, one of the highest in the world
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures to supporters during a rally in Caracas on 18 February, 2014 President Nicolas Maduro called on his supporters to join a rival rally

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Venezuelans clash as jailed opposition leader sits

 

Photo by:

The Associated Press
A opposition protester holding a Venezuelan flag yells at Bolivarian National Guards blocking the path leading to downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez emerged from days of hiding and surrendered to police before thousands of supporters on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Becerra)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

By:

CARACAS, Venezuela — Violent clashes flared up across Venezuela on Wednesday as the nation waited to learn what charges jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez will face for organizing mass protests that have breathed new life into the movement challenging socialist rule in the oil-rich nation.

Gunfire echoed through downtown Caracas as President Nicolas Maduro spoke on live TV for more than two hours Wednesday night denouncing what he calls a “fascist” plot to destabilize the country. Elsewhere, protesters set trash fires in streets or threw rocks at National Guard troops, who fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

There was no immediate word on whether there were any new casualties, after a week of demonstrations and clashes that have resulted in at least six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

Lopez, who dramatically surrendered to authorities before thousands of cheering supporters Tuesday, was supposed to appear before a judge inside a military jail to learn what charges he might face for organizing the protests that the government has blamed for the violence.

The hearing was closed and the outcome had not been announced by late Wednesday, but Maduro suggested in his speech that Lopez would remain in custody and face criminal charges.

“I said, ‘Send him to jail,’ and that’s what happened and that’s what will happen with all of the fascists,” Maduro said.

The government has accused Lopez, a 42-year-old former mayor and the leader of the Popular Will party, of attempting to foment a coup in the South American nation and authorities had said he could face charges that include homicide and causing grievous bodily harm.

Before the president’s speech, a judicial official told The Associated Press that prosecutors were leaning toward discarding homicide and terrorism charges, opting instead to pursue less serious counts such as arson and incitement to commit crimes. That would allow the possibility of Lopez being released pending trial, according to the official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name because the decision had not been made public.

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