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Disappeared Venezuelan Legislator Being Held in State Detention - Lawyer


FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela June 12, 2018 in this still image taken from a video.

Venezuelan opposition legislator Gilber Caro, whose whereabouts had been unknown since December, is being held in state custody and is in good condition, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

A special police unit took Caro into custody on Dec. 20 in an operation that opposition leaders described as illegal because he is protected by parliamentary immunity. He was indicted on charges including terrorism without the presence of legal counsel, according to his lawyer Theresly Malave.

Caro's arrest came as President Nicolas Maduro's government carried out a new wave of legal actions against opposition lawmakers just as opposition leader Juan Guaido's campaign to oust Maduro was stalling.

"He is well, but he shouldn't be there," said Malave, who on Monday was able to spend 45 minutes with him, together with one of his sisters. In a telephone interview, Malave said she could not disclose Caro's specific location.

Venezuela's Information Ministry and state prosecutor's office did not respond to requests for comment on Caro, a leading member of Guaido's hardline opposition party, Popular Will.

Before his December arrest, Caro had already spent a year and half in prison after being jailed without trial in January 2017 during anti-government protests on charges of treason and stealing military material. His lawyer at the time said Caro was innocent and authorities had planted weapons on him.

In an interview with Reuters after his release in June 2018, Caro said prison authorities had deprived him of food and water, causing him to lose a fifth of his body weight, and left him in solitary confinement for up to four months at a time.

Caro was detained again last year in April and released in June, though the government did not comment on the charges. Some 30 lawmakers remain detained, in exile, or in refuge at embassies in Caracas, according to Guaido.

In December, Maduro's government approved a trial of four opposition lawmakers accused of committing crimes including treason and conspiracy.

Guaido last January invoked Venezuela's constitution to assume a rival presidency, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate, and was swiftly backed by dozens of countries including the United States.

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