Venezuelan opposition councillor dies in custody (Oct. 9, 2018)
A Caracas councillor died in government custody yesterday -- authorities said he killed himself jumping from a tenth floor window in the intelligence agency headquarters, the Sebin. But government opponents challenged that version and said Fernando Alban of the Primero Justicia party was murdered. Family members demanded the corpse last night outside the morgue, as rumors on social media said the government was planning to cremate Alban to hide signs of torture. It is not clear what happened between Alban's Friday detention and death yesterday.
The autopsy was conducted with the presence of four prosecutors from the Public Ministry, but family members will not have access to the report until they file the paperwork for a death certificate, reports Efecto Cocuyo.
Alban was detained on suspicion of participating in a failed alleged assassination attempt against President Nicolás Maduro in August, involving explosive laden drones at a military parade. More than two dozen people have been detained in relation to the case. The government maintains that Primero Justicia founder Julio Borges, who is in exile in Colombia, is behind the attack -- with the support of the U.S. and Colombia.
Attorney General Tareq Saab said Alban asked to use the bathroom and flung himself out the window. And Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol said he had jumped from a window while waiting to be brought to court. But Borges and Henrique Capriles, another Primero Justicia leader, said the death was an assassination. Allies pointed to Alban's Catholic faith, saying it was unlikely he would commit suicide. Opposition activist Sergio Contreras, who spent time in Sebin detention, tweeted that he had never been permitted to use the bathroom without custody and never one with windows.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, known for his critical stance towards the Venezuelan government, said it was “the direct responsibility of a torturing and homicidal regime.” And Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is in Venezuela for meetings with Maduro and his opponents, called Alban's death while in the government's custody "disturbing."
The U.N. human rights office said yesterday that it will investigate the case as part of its investigation into human rights abuses in Venezuela. And the European Union asked for a rigorous and independent investigation into Alban's death and reiterated a call for the government to free political prisoners.
(Associated Press, Reuters, El País, BBC, CNN, Associated Press again, Efecto Cocuyo, Efecto Cocuyo again, and AFP)
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