World

Attorney: Owner of anti-Chavez TV station won't return to Venezuela to face charges

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The president of Venezuela's only opposition-aligned television channel will not return to his homeland to face criminal charges that he considers politically motivated, the executive's lawyer said Tuesday.

Jenny Tambasco said Globovision majority owner Guillermo Zuloaga believes "he would not get a fair verdict in Venezuela."

Zuloaga asked the Organization of American States for help last week in Washington, saying he wants its human rights commission to determine if he truly committed a crime in Venezuela.

"He is looking for an impartial judge," Tambasco told Union Radio.

Prosecutors want Zuloaga jailed while he awaits trial on charges of usury and conspiracy for keeping 24 new vehicles stored at a home he owns. Investigators allege that Zuloaga, who owns several car dealerships, was waiting for market prices for the vehicles to rise, which is punishable under Venezuelan law.

Allies of President Hugo Chavez were angered by Zuloaga's refusal to return and disputed his claim the country's justice system leans in the government's favor.

"Those statements are unfounded," Flor Rios, a pro-Chavez lawmaker, said in a telephone interview. "All the branches of government in Venezuela are autonomous."

Zuloaga claims Chavez ordered prosecutors to bring charges against him because of Globovision's stinging opposition to the government. Chavez denies being behind the prosecution.

Zuloaga disappeared last month after a court issued an arrest warrant for him and one of his sons. Associates said he left the country, but did not offer details regarding his whereabouts.

Globovision has been the only anti-Chavez channel on air since another channel, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite in January. RCTV was previously booted from the open airwaves after the government refused to renew its broadcast license in 2007.