Caracas, October, 15, 2004—A case that has lasted more than three months ended yesterday night after more than 6 hours of deliberation with a Judge sentencing eight local politicians and business men from Tachira state to 3 and 6 years in prison for their part in the coup against the Chavez government on April 12 of 2002.
All eight people were found guilty of rebellion. Three were charged with direct cooperation to rebellion while five were charged as accomplices. The first three were sentenced to 6 years in jail.
The opposition has called the eight Tachira prisoners “political prisoners,” while Chavez government supporters call them “terrorists,” for their effort to depose the pro-Chavez Tachira government of governor Ronald Blanco La Cruz during the April 2002 coup attempt.
The five were granted conditional freedom because their sentence is three years. The first three were not released on the same conditions. Under Venezuelan law, conditional freedom is offered only to those with less than a 5 year sentence.
Defense lawyer José Luis Tamayo announced that the defense team would appeal the sentence at the Court of Appeals in Tachira state and then before the Supreme court of Justice in Caracas.
This is the first time any one has been convicted in connection the April 2002 coup attempt against President Chavez. The military officers that led the coup were freed a few months after the coup when the Supreme Court refused to indict them, saying that there was insufficient grounds for taking them to trial. The court argued that the officers acted properly, given that there was a “vacuum of power,” not an illegal arrest of the president. Another pending case related to the coup involves the opposition mayor of the Baruta district of Caracas, Henrique Capriles Radonski, on the charge of negligence of duty when an angry opposition mob tried to assault the Cuban embassy on April 12, 2002. Capriles Radonski was present during the assault and, according to the prosecutor, did not do anything to put an end to it.