Published: Fri, October 12, 2018

Venezuela faces calls for probe after opposition activist dies in custody

Venezuela faces calls for probe after opposition activist dies in custody

Members of Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) stand guard as mourners of the municipal lawmaker Fernando Alban gather outside its headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela on October 8, 2018.

The country's chief prosecutor said that Alban killed himself Monday by leaping from the 10th floor of the state police agency's headquarters, where he was being held for alleged involvement in an global plot to kill Maduro using explosive-laden drones.

A jailed councilman in Venezuela arrested on suspicion of involvement in a failed assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro has died of suicide, the government said Monday.

Interior and Justice Minister General Nestor Reverol lamented the death of the politician who, he said, was "involved in destabilizing acts directed from overseas".

A spokeswoman for the United Nations rights office, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters the Caracas government had "an obligation to ensure (Alban's) safety, personal integrity and dignity".

His First Justice party blamed Maduro's government for the death of Alban, who was arrested on Friday.

The official claim is drawing a swift denial from Venezuelan opposition leaders close to Alberto Alban Salazar.

That account differed from the one by Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab, who said in televised statements that Alban had asked to use a bathroom and jumped from there.

"There's no doubt this was an assassination", opposition leader Julio Borges said in a video from exile in neighboring Colombia, without providing evidence of his claim.

In a statement, the European Union also demanded "a thorough and independent investigation" to clarify the circumstances of Alban's "tragic death".

Reacting to the news, US Senator Bob Corker tweeted that the Venezuelan government should explain how the death had been allowed to happen.

But his supporters say he was murdered - a theory echoed by the United States, a fierce critic of Maduro's regime.

Rights groups and the opposition have said that Mr Maduro's administration is holding hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges meant to stifle dissent.

The government has denied that it is detaining people as political prisoners and has said that they were fairly jailed.

The city councilman's lawyer, Joel Garcia, told reporters it was too soon to confirm whether the case was a suicide.

The Organization of American States (OAS) condemned Alban's death. "This criminal dictatorship must go now from Venezuela", OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said on Twitter.

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