The Venezuelan prosecutor who helped build a case against opposition leader Leopoldo López, which resulted in him being sentenced to almost 14 years in jail, is accusing President Nicolás Maduro of directly ordering the politician's arrest.
Franklin Nieves, who arrived in the United States with his family last week where he has been making bombshell allegations about López’s case being a farce, is seeking political asylum.
Nieves said he was forced to use false evidence to build a case against López after the opposition leader and former mayor engaged in anti-Maduro government protests that sometimes turned violent.
Nieves new claim about a direct Maduro involvement in getting López – who was gaining international attention with his protests – off the streets were made during an interview on Tuesday with CNN en Español.
The prosecutor said that the aggressive handling of López was rooted in a desire to silence someone who was gaining influence and exposure and drawing larger and larger crowds.
"They jailed him because they fear his leadership,” he told CNN.
“After examining each and every piece of evidence, it was shown that this person had at no point made even a single call to violence,” Nieves said, adding that López made painstaking efforts to urge his supporters to be peaceful.
Nieves said that witnesses made statements about López that were patently untrue and that López was denied an opportunity to properly defend himself.
He said that a general ordered him to meet with an intelligence official who made up information that was later used to justify arresting López.
“They made up those facts in the moment,” Nieves said.
Venezuela’s top prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, has called Nieves’s allegations untrue and said that he never complained before about any improprieties regarding López’s arrest and charges.
“The prosecutor’s office never put pressure on him,” Ortega said in an interview with Venezuela's Venevision. “If he was pressured, it was undoubtedly by foreign elements.”
CNN unsuccessfully tried to get a comment from Venezuela's Ministry of Communications and Information.
Venezuela’s ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, however, told CNN that the proper time for Nieves to have raised his concerns and allegations would have been during the case against López.
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