CARACAS, VENEZUELA —
The trial of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, already more than a year long, was wrapping up Friday as the imprisoned politician prepared to give his final remarks in a closed courtroom.
Lopez is charged inciting violence in his role as leader of a bloody protest movement in 2014 and could face more than 10 years in prison. Venezuela's highest-profile opposition leader said he promoted only peaceful protest against the socialist government.
He was expected to deliver his final remarks to the court Friday evening after both sides concluded their closing arguments. The judge could issue a verdict immediately afterward.
Hundreds of his supporters gathered in the streets outside the court to demand his release, though few thought it likely that he would be found not guilty.
Opposition figures delivered statements calling on President Nicolas Maduro to roll back what they say has been a consistent policy of attacking and imprisoning critics. Maduro was in Qatar on Friday, continuing a multination tour to seek loans and action on oil prices as the socialist South American country's economy sinks deeper into recession.
One supporter protesting outside the courthouse said that instead of appealing to Maduro, she was praying to God, because he was the only one who could create a miracle and bring about Lopez's freedom.
As they have done for each hearing during the 13 months of proceedings, armed soldiers shut down the area around the courthouse ahead of the session, which was called for the morning but had not started by early afternoon.
U.S. officials have made Lopez's release a key demand for normalizing diplomatic relations.