Venezuelan authorities have released on Friday, July 5th, 22 prisoners including students, a judge and a journalist, said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, following a direct request by the UN.
This comes after Bachelet issued a report accusing security forces in Venezuela of sending death squads to murder young men, a charge which a vice minister denied in a speech to the Geneva forum on Friday, July 5th.
"The welcome release of 62 detainees then (in June), with a further 22 – including journalist Braulio Jatar and judge (Maria) Lourdes Afiuni – set free yesterday and the authorities’ acceptance of two human rights officers in the country, signify the beginning of positive engagement on the country's many human rights issues," Bachelet said.
The prisoners were released after Bachelet made a direct request to Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro, said a spokeswoman. Judge Afiuni was arrested over bribery charges, and journalist Jatar faced money laundering accusations.
Venezuelan authorities arrested judge Afiuni, after she ordered the release of businessman Eligio Cedeno, who faced corruption allegations. The ruling was criticized by the former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Afiuni affirmed she had ordered releasing Cedeno because the time he had awaited trial exceeded the legal limit. However, prosecutors accused the judge of taking bribes to release Cedeno.
Prominent journalist and lawyer Jatar publicised a protest against president Maduro, shortly before he was arrested and was charged with money-laundering.
"We are really happy about the liberation of Afiuni and Jatar; they should never have been in jail. And we hope this liberation continues," Miguel Pizarro, a member of Venezuela's National Assembly, told reporters in Geneva
Pizarro was also accused of treason by a Venezuelan court in May along with three other opposition legislators. Pizarro said he had lived in ‘safe houses’ since then before coming to Europe to lobby the UN and parliaments.
He called for assembly vice president Edgar Zambrano and opposition legislator Juan Requesens to be released as well.
"Everything we can do to get a fair and free election to get a new president and a new government in Venezuela, we have to try it - demonstrations, negotiations, sanctions, international pressure, people in the street," Pizarro said.