Jailed Venezuela opposition leader under house arrest

CARACAS: Venezuela’s best-known jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was back home and hugging his family on Saturday after being granted house arrest following three years in jail for leading anti-government protests.
Lopez’s return to his Caracas house came as Venezuela is once again convulsed by demonstrations against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, struggling with an economic crisis and global censure for overriding the powers of the opposition-led congress.
Lopez, 46, a photogenic, Harvard-educated former mayor who has been barred from holding elected office, left the Ramo Verde military jail before dawn and was reunited with his wife and two young children, relatives said.
“A few days ago they had punished him with solitary confinement without light or water for three days,” said his father, of the same name, in an interview with Spanish radio.
“(Now) he’s hugging his children, he’s with his wife … I’m happy, he’s happy of course,” he added, adding that his son was wearing an electronic tag for authorities to track him.
The opposition has long called Lopez a political prisoner, and leaders around the world, including US President Donald Trump, have pressed for his release.
Maduro, who for years refused to pardon Lopez, has described him as a dangerous terrorist who sought to overthrow him through street violence. Government supporters often note Lopez’s role in a short-lived 2002 coup against the late former leader Hugo Chavez when he helped arrest a minister.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court said Lopez had been granted house arrest due to health problems, but his family could not immediately confirm what those were.
Opposition leaders applauded Lopez’s return home, but said he should be granted complete freedom, along with several hundred other jailed opponents of Maduro.
The government says all imprisoned activists are being held on legitimate charges, including coup-plotting. — Reuters