Venezuela currently has 399 political prisoners, and 15,180 people were arrested for political reasons in the last five years, reported Venezuelan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Foro Penal on November 13.
Gonzalo Himiob Santomé, the NGO’s director, said in a press conference that 20 of the more than 390 political prisoners in the South American nation are women and 109 are service members.
The lawyer said that only 20 have been formally charged, and that the rest must be considered innocent until proven otherwise, and be allowed to follow the legal process as free citizens.
Himiob said that 8,950 of those detained since January 2014 remain subject to criminal proceedings under precautionary measures. “These restrictions on freedom become a kind of preemptive, eternal sanction in which the person cannot be certain of their freedom at any time,” he said.
Ofelia Aguado, sister of political prisoner and doctor William Aguado, whose case is being heard before military courts, said that his trial, scheduled to begin in October 2019, has yet to start after almost two years.
“I wanted to ask the government to give us an answer […] because we are still in limbo. We can’t do anything, because even requesting for him to receive medical care must be authorized by the courts,” said Aguado.
Ana Marulanda, daughter of surgeon José Alberto Marulanda, also detained for political reasons since mid-2018, told the media they have not received an answer about his case. His hearing took place in December 2018, and they have yet to get a trial date.
“It’s very easy sometimes to see political prisoners as a number. It’s easy to just say 399. But when you consider those 399 people, [they] are fathers, mothers, brothers, and relatives of people from whom they’re currently separated, who are unjustly detained” said Marulanda.
She said her father suffered hearing loss in one ear due to torture.
On November 12, the Organization of American States confirmed the numbers the NGO provided.