Opposition leader freed from Venezuela jail and placed under house arrest

Opposition leader freed from Venezuela jail and placed under house arrest
A statue of Venezuelan hero Simon Bolivar with a mask made with the Venezuelan flag is seen at Chacao square in Caracas, Venezuela. Picture: AP

Venezuelan opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez has been returned home after being taken back to jail nearly a week ago.

The activist's wife Lilian Tintori said on Twitter that she and her husband remain committed to achieving "peace and freedom for Venezuela".

Mr Lopez was released from prison on July 8 and placed under house arrest after serving three years of a 13-year sentence on charges of inciting violence at opposition rallies. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner.

But he was taken back into custody in the middle of the night Tuesday along with former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma in what many believed was a renewed crackdown on the opposition following the election of delegates to the constitutional assembly.

Some saw his return home as a sign Venezuelan officials may be rethinking the crackdown, even as the new, all-powerful constitutional assembly ousted the defiant chief prosecutor.

Cries of "traitor" and "justice" erupted from the room where 545 pro-government delegates voted on Saturday unanimously to remove Luisa Ortega from her post as the nation's top law enforcement official and replace her with a staunch government supporter.

They said they were acting in response to a ruling by the government-stacked Supreme Court, which banned Ms Ortega from leaving the country and froze her bank accounts while it considers criminal charges against her for alleged irregularities.

Ms Ortega, a longtime loyalist who broke with the socialist government in April, refused to recognise the decision and vowed to continue defending the rights of Venezuelans from President Nicolas Maduro's "coup" against the constitution "with my last breath".

"This is just a tiny example of what's coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of government," Ms Ortega said in a statement she signed as chief prosecutor. "If they're doing this to the chief prosecutor, imagine the helpless state all Venezuelans live in."

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