CARACAS – Venezuela’s imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was freed early Saturday morning from the Ramo Verde military prison and is now under house arrest, defense attorney Javier Cremades said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada visited Lopez Friday night in prison, and the next morning he was moved to his home in Caracas, Cremades said.
“I repeat to you my commitment to fight until freedom is achieved. People of Venezuela, let this advance, this step transform itself into greater conviction, and in that sense we repeat, 100 days into the resistance let us return to the street to fight” for freedom, said Lopez in a letter read by the coordinator of the Popular Will party, Freddy Guevara, at the door of his residence.
Sources close to the process of Lopez’s release told EFE that the government-supporting siblings Jorge and Delcy Rodriguez – the mayor of the capital’s Libertador district and the ex-foreign minister, respectively – informed Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, about the transfer on Friday night.
The Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) said it was allowing Lopez to exchange prison for house arrest “because of health problems,” although the opposition leader’s family said that he is in perfect health.
Later on Saturday, Lopez appeared at the wall surrounding his residence to greet his supporters, with a Venezuelan flag waving nearby, and immediately the excited crowd began to applaud and shout slogans.
It was Lopez’s first public appearance since he was imprisoned on Feb. 18, 2014.
Lopez’s release was one of the main demands of the opposition at the talks held with the government of Nicolas Maduro in late 2016, negotiations mediated by Spanish ex-Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Vatican and the former presidents of Panama and the Dominican Republic, Martin Torrijos and Leonel Fernandez, respectively.
Lopez’s father Leopoldo Lopez Gil told EFE from Spain that the first thing his son did after leaving prison was to call him to break the good news.
The father of the opposition leader said the family is “very happy” and though it had plans in Europe, “we’re packing our bags” to fly back to Venezuela in the next few hours.
In his role as mediator of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), Zapatero had visited Lopez in prison several times over the past year, the last time on June 4.
On that visit, he was accompanied by the Rodriguez siblings, both representatives of the government in the dialogue process with the opposition.
Lopez has been behind bars at Ramo Verde since Feb. 18, 2014, when he voluntarily turned himself in to the police after an arrest warrant was handed down for the incidents that occurred six days earlier in a demonstration that he and others had called.
In September 2015, he was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison for the crimes of public incitement, association to commit crime, property damage and arson, for the incidents that occurred during the Feb. 12, 2014, demonstration.