“They are not terrorists”: They ask for the freedom of human rights defenders prosecuted in Venezuela

Arbitrary detention, denial of medical care, procedural delay: Javier Tarazona, a human rights activist imprisoned for more than 400 days in Venezuela, has been the victim of numerous "irregularities"denounce his defense and his fellow organization.

Arrested on July 2, 2021, Tarazona had to wait more than a year for the first formal hearing of the trial in which he is accused of being held on August 16. "terrorism", "hate speech" Y "treason".

Before there were 13 deferrals, reported his defense.

On Thursday, in a second hearing, "made the evacuation of evidence from the prosecution to substantiate the arrest"Clara Ramírez, documentation and human rights coordinator for FundaRedes, an NGO headed by Tarazona, which serves residents of border areas, told AFP.

Fundaredes asks for the "full freedom" of Javier Tarazona and two other members of that organization, his brother Rafael Tarazona and Omar de Dios García, also arrested in 2021, but later released, although they must appear in court every 15 days.

"They are not terrorists, nor have they instigated hatred with their actions, the only thing we do at Fundaredes is to make visible human rights violations suffered by the inhabitants on the border, either by the action of irregular armed groups or by action or omission of the State."Ramirez stressed.

The NGO Foro Penal considers Tarazona, whom it assists legally, one of the 244 "political prisoners" documented to date in Venezuela.

At the beginning of the year, relatives and lawyers from Tarazona requested his release for a "complex" health chart.

They affirm that it presents nine pathologies, among them arterial hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, hyperinsulinism, anxiety, tachycardia, respiratory allergies, in addition to irritated colon.

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"To date without specialized medical care"assured AFP Rachel González, one of the Foro Penal lawyers in charge of his defense.


"worrying example" 

The arrests of Tarazona and his colleagues from Fundaredes were considered by the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, "a worrying example" of the "restrictions on civic space" In Venezuela.

They were executed after denouncing the government of President Nicolás Maduro for having links with dissidents from the dissolved Colombian guerrilla group FARC and members of the ELN.

"The approval and complacency of the Venezuelan State with irregular groups was undressed"Ramirez insists.

Fundaredes reported in March 2021, before the authorities did, about clashes in the border state of Apure (west) between the Venezuelan military and Colombian armed groups. 16 soldiers died in these combats, according to official figures.

Activists denounce a "systematic criminalization" of human rights defenders, accusations that the government denies.

Liliana Ortega, director of the human rights NGO Cofavic, told AFP in July that the organization documented 215 attacks against activists last year, including arbitrary arrests, violations of due process, "acts of criminalization" through state media and raids.

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