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11:16 25 July
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Venezuelan opposition leader Lopez granted house arrest


Venezuela's best-known jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was out of prison and hugging his family on Saturday after being granted house arrest following three years in jail for leading anti-government protests, APA reports quoting Reuters.

 

Lopez's return to his Caracas home comes 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 country's 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 U.S. 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 members were unable to identify 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.

 

State ombudsman Tarek Saab said in an interview with CNN that the measure was the result of efforts by a state-backed truth commission, which he said is also studying the release of other citizens detained amid protests.

 

The release was aided in part by the involvement of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has for years maintained talks with Venezuela's government, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters at the G20 meeting in Hamburg.

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