[JURIST] The 16th Control Judge of Caracas, Adriana Lopez, on Thursday ordered Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez [BBC profile] to remain in jail until trial on charges of instigating violence, damaging property and arson committed during a political rally on February 12. Lopez is the leader of the Popular Will party, which has garnered widespread supported from the student population in the country and strongly opposes the current government under Nicolas Maduro [BBC profile] and the United Socialist Party. Lopez has been jailed since he turned himself in on February 18, following nearly a month of increasingly violent anti-government protests [NYT report] in Venezuela over rampant crime, inflation, economic disparity and lack of opportunity [AFP report] for the majority of Venezuelans. Lopez's trial began on Monday, and the judgment was delivered [El Universal report] early Thursday morning after a number of delays and lengthy testimony. Lopez could face more than 10 years in jail if sentenced. Four students were also ordered to stand trial in Thursday's judgment.
A series of deadly protests in Venezuela has been a subject of international concern in recent months. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released an investigative report [JURIST report] into allegations that government security forces have abused and unlawfully detained protesters. In March Maduro announced [JURIST report] that three air force generals were arrested and brought before a military tribunal for plotting a coup. Earlier in March a group of UN independent experts asked Venezuela's government answer to allegations of abuse [JURIST report] against journalists, media workers and demonstrators during the country's recent protests, and this request came only a week after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned [JURIST report] the recent political violence in Venezuela and urged all parties involved to move towards meaningful dialogue in hopes of resolving the situation. Other advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International [advocacy website], have raised awareness about the mounting threat against political freedom and the rule of law [AI report] in Venezuela.