Tags: Chavez | jail | judge | tirade

Judge Lands in Jail After Chavez Tirade

Sunday, 25 Apr 2010 06:53 PM


LOS TEQUES, VENEZUELA - Sitting in the tiny jail cell that has been her home for months, Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni said she knew a ruling she handed down in December might incense Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

But she was astonished when intelligence agents arrested her and the entire courtroom staff 15 minutes after she freed a prisoner the government wanted in jail.

"I never thought -- never -- that the violations would get to this point," said Afiuni, 46, who is being held here in a cellblock filled with women charged with drug trafficking and murder, some of whom she sentenced.

The jailing of a tenured judge who angered the president has brought into sharp focus the increasingly tight control Chávez exerts over the judiciary, a situation condemned by legal watchdog groups and constitutional experts across the Americas.

Advocates for an independent judiciary in Venezuela also say the judge's plight, along with the arrests of dozens of government opponents in recent months, demonstrates how far the Chávez administration will go to quell dissent.

"The message from the Afiuni case is very clear: If a judge doesn't do what we want, you go to jail," said Carlos Ayala, a constitutional lawyer and former president of the Andean Commission of Jurists. "Judges are scared out of their wits. Before, they got fired for these decisions. Now they go to jail."

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2010-53-25
Sunday, 25 Apr 2010 06:53 PM
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