Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison Thursday. He was charged with public incitement, property damage and criminal conspiracy following opposition-led protests last year that turned deadly when state forces clashed with demonstrators, killing dozens of people.
The U.S.-trained economist was sentenced to 13 years and nine months for inciting violence against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in an attempt to force the president out of office.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Jacobson said on Thursday she was "deeply troubled" by the sentencing, and via Twitter urged the defense of democracy and human rights in Venezuela. Washington had been urging President Nicolas Maduro's government to release Lopez, in jail since February 2014 on charges of inciting violence.
Amnesty International said Lopez's sentence shows "an utter lack of judicial independence and impartiality" in Venezuela.
"His only 'crime' was being leader of an opposition party in Venezuela," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas Director of Amnesty International. "With this decision, Venezuela is choosing to ignore basic human rights principles and giving the green light to more abuses."
Lopez, 44, is the founder of opposition party Popular Will.