Up to 30 years in jail for ex-MP, 16 others over alleged hit on Maduro

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A Venezuelan court on Tuesday sentenced an opposition ex-MP and 16 others to jail terms of up to 30 years for an alleged exploding drone attack against President Nicolas Maduro in 2018.

The former lawmaker, Juan Requesens, was sentenced to eight years in jail "for the crime of conspiracy," his lawyer Joel Garcia said on Twitter after Tuesday's hearing.

Sentences for the other 16 ranged from five to 30 years on charges of terrorism, criminal association, murder, treason and detonating an explosive in public.

Twelve of the accused received the highest sentence.

Sentencing came exactly four years after two drones packed with explosives flew towards Maduro as he addressed a military parade in Caracas and blew up, injuring seven soldiers.

The president claimed an attempted "assassination", and 30 people including serving generals and Requesens were arrested in the aftermath.

Caracas accused the government of then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of being behind the attack with backing from the United States and Peru.

The sentences "are aimed at supporting the false narrative of those in power of an alleged assassination attempt," lawyer Gonzalo Himiob of the NGO Foro Penal, which advocates for "political prisoners", told AFP.

"They are scapegoats," he added.

- 'Tyrants and tyranny' -

Within days of the arrest of Requesens, now 33, the authorities circulated a video in which he admitted having had contact with an alleged plotter.

The political opposition claimed he had been threatened or drugged, and Garcia insisted there was no evidence against his client.

Requesens was transferred from jail to house arrest in 2020 while awaiting trial. It was unclear where he would serve his sentence.

His father, also Juan Requesens, took to Twitter to express his "eternal repudiation of tyrants and tyranny" after Tuesday's sentencing.

And opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was recognized by the US and others as Venezuela's interim president after Maduro's disputed 2018 re-election, said "the dictatorship kidnaped him (Requesens) and has kept him captive as a means of persecuting all who resist."

Army general Hector Hernandez Da Costa, 56, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Emirlendris Benitez and Yolmer Escalona, received the maximum penalty of 30 years despite lawyers claiming the couple had been responding to a taxi callout when arrested.

According to Foro Penal, there were 245 "political prisoners" in Venezuela on August 1.

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