Archbishop says Venezuelan justice system has been hijacked


Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, Venezuela said this week that the decision by Hugo Chavez to imprison Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni is evidence that the country’s judicial system has been hijacked.

The archbishop visited Afiuni at the prison where she has been held since last December, when she ordered the release of banker Eligio Cedeno, which infuriated President Hugo Chavez.  Cedeno is known for donating to the political campaigns of opposition leaders. Chavez demanded the judge be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Archbishop Luckert said Afiuni “represents an honest Venezuelan judge.”  He also criticized the country’s officials for prolonging her detention and ignoring the law. 

He said that although Afiuni’s cell is comfortable, she is being held near prisoners that she herself sentenced and who are now making death threats against her.  “She stays inside, she does not go outside to the prison yards or even to the hallway that surrounds her cell.  She took advantage of my visit to see the chapel and the yard.  She lives completely enclosed in her cell out of fear,” he said.

After learning about Afiuni’s situation from postings on Twitter, Archbishop Luckert called prison officials and was allowed to visit.

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