CARACAS – Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has returned to court for a fifth hearing in the trial against him in which his defense team has been prevented from submitting evidence.
Lopez announced on Wednesday that he would turn to the country’s Supreme Court as the last resort so that it could observe what he described as the “vices” of the government’s legal process against him.
Lawyers working for Lopez, who has been in custody for six months for inciting violence during anti-government protests in February, said on Wednesday that with this appeal they have run out of options regarding the matter of introducing evidence.
One of the lawyers, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, told Efe that this new appeal would be filed because of the ridiculous procedural irregularities such as denying the evidence of the defense.
Lopez’s trial began on July 23 and from the start his lawyers were informed by the court about the inadmissibility of the evidence that it presented, including the testimonies of 60 witnesses.
Since then the defense team has made appeals to different Venezuelan courts to force their evidence to be included.
As a last resort, an appeal to the Supreme Court was planned to force the trial to hear evidence from the defense which, according to Gutierrez, is a request that is made when “the credibility of the Venezuelan justice system” has been affected and one proceeds to make a review of the case.
“We are hoping that the judge who will be in charge of analyzing the case appoints a speaker (as) we have already submitted all the information,” Gutierrez said.
The lawyer also said that in the documents filed with the court there is evidence of “the systematic violation of the right to due process.”
Four additional witnesses from the Ministry of Public Works are scheduled to testify at the hearing to determine if there was a fire in the infrastructure, an incident of which Lopez stands accused.
“The expectation is that these people declare the truth, that they show some evidence of the findings, and if that is done, it will show that there was never any fire in the public prosecutor’s office, that crime was never committed, nor the building destroyed, nor were there sufficient means to perpetrate it,” Gutierrez said before the hearing.
According to the lawyer, the first four officials who testified in the previous hearing on Aug. 28 “not only failed to present any evidence that incriminated him (Lopez), the testimonies were full of serious contradictions.”
On Wednesday, Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, announced her trip to the UN headquarters in New York to expose cases of the so-called “political prisoners.”
Although no details were revealed at the end of Wednesday’s hearing, according to Lopez’s Twitter account the next hearing will be held Sept. 22.
Along with the leader of the Popular Will Party, Angel Gonzalez, Damian Martin, Marco Coello and Christian Holdack are also set to be tried, the first two on charges of instigation to commit an offence and the latter two for public incitement, fire, damages and unlawful assembly.
Lopez is accused of public incitement, property damage and inciting violence during a march on Feb. 12 that left three dead and dozens wounded and arrested.
That day sparked off a wave of anti-government protests in the country that went on for four months and claimed at least 43 lives while leaving hundreds injured and under arrest.
In the hours following the incidents of Feb. 12, President Nicolas Maduro directly accused Lopez of the events and ordered his arrest.
On Feb. 18, Lopez, accompanied by thousands of supporters, handed himself over to the authorities.
Since then he has been held in the military prison in Ramo Verde, on the outskirts of Caracas.
Lopez and the other defendants received the support of other political leaders on Wednesday who protested against what they regard as an unfair trial.
Opposition leader and mayor of Caracas Maria Corina Machado tweeted in support of those being tried, calling the trial a “farce” and predicting that “the truth will triumph over the lie.”