Venezuela Supreme Court says politicians who backed failed uprising will be prosecuted
Opposition leader Juan Guaido not on list, but US threatens sanctions on judges who made the ruling
Venezuela will prosecute seven politicians who backed last week's failed uprising orchestrated by opposition leader Juan Guaido, the country's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
The court said it asked Attorney General William Tarek Saab to handle the "criminal investigation" into the opposition legislators for high treason and conspiracy.
Soon after the announcement the Constituent Assembly, which effectively acts as a rubber-stamp parliament for the regime, stripped the seven politicians of their immunity from prosecution.
"What comes now? A trial," said assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, the regime's second most powerful figure after President Nicolas Maduro.
Mr Cabello said three other politicians had been identified and would undergo the same process.
The list includes Henry Ramos Allup, the former speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, but not Mr Guaido, its current leader, who is recognised as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence kept up the pressure on Mr Maduro's regime by announcing that sanctions against his sacked intelligence chief, Christopher Figuera, were being lifted.
Mr Pence said he hoped that Mr Figuera's defection would inspire other senior Venezuelans to break ranks with Mr Maduro.
"We will consider sanctions relief for all those who step up for the constitution and support the rule of law," he said.
"I hope the actions our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of Cristopher Figuera."
Mr Pence hinted that the US could impose sanctions on the Venezuelan judges if they used the court as "a political tool for a regime that usurps democracy, indicts political prisoners and promotes authoritarianism".
"If the Supreme Court in Venezuela does not return to its constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law, the United States will hold all 25 of its magistrates accountable for their actions," he said.
Mr Pence also said that a navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, would return to the area in June for a five-month mission to help neighbouring countries that are caring for some of the millions of Venezuelans who have fled their country.
The other politicians named on the Venezuelan Supreme Court prosecution list were Edgar Zambrano, Luis Florido, Marianela Magallanes, Simon Calzadilla, Americo De Grazia and Richard Blanco.
The Constituent Assembly said it would suspend the immunity of any politicians who backed the April 30 uprising, which set off two days of clashes between the security forces and protesters, killing five people.
Dozens more were injured and more than 233 were arrested in the unrest.
Mr Saab has said that authorities have already issued 18 arrest warrants against "civilians and military plotters".
The international Contact Group on Venezuela, which met in Costa Rica on Tuesday, announced it would send a high-level mission to the crisis-racked country to monitor humanitarian aid distribution and encourage talks.
Updated: May 8, 2019 10:16 AM