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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez freed from jail and under house arrest

After three years in prison, Mr Lopez has been released on health grounds

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a Venezuelan national flag as he greets supporters outside his home in Caracas (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a Venezuelan national flag as he greets supporters outside his home in Caracas (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

VENEZUELA // The Venezuelan opposition leader has been moved to house arrest after more than three years in jail. He is now wearing an electronic tag, according to his father.

Leopoldo Lopez was serving a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014 - protests similar in nature to those currently raging in the country. He has always denied this charge.

The Harvard-educated, former mayor has been blocked by the government from standing for public office.

The Supreme Court said he has been released on health grounds.

Earlier this year, a government lawmaker published a video of Mr Lopez in his cell following rumours that he had been poisoned and taken to hospital. In the video, Mr Lopez said he was well and did not know why he was being asked to prove he was still alive.

Mr Lopez left a prison near Caracas at dawn and was reunited with his family. Shortly after, he urged supporters to continue protesting against President Nicolás Maduro.

Mr Lopez's father told Spanish radio "a few days ago they had punished him with solitary confinement without light or water for three days", while his mother had complained she had not been allowed to see him for more than a month. On Friday she tweeted saying she had been allowed an hour-long meeting.

Venezuela's opposition and foreign influencers have campaigned for Mr Lopez’s release.

Venezuela is in a deep economic crisis and citizens face severe shortages of basic supplies such as medicine and food. The falling price of oil, which accounts for about 95% of export revenues, has made the situation worse.