Jailed Venezuela opposition leader charged with public incitement

Story highlights

  • Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is charged with public incitement and conspiracy
  • Lopez has been held in military jail for over a month
  • 39 people have died and over 600 have been injured in anti-government protests
  • If found guilty, Lopez could face nearly 14 years in prison.

A Venezuelan prosecutor on Friday formally charged opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez with public incitement, property damage, arson and conspiracy.

General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz announced the charges at a press conference in Caracas, a day before the legal deadline to keep Lopez in custody expires.

Lopez, 42, a former mayor and presidential candidate, has been held in a military jail for well more than a month. The government of President Nicolas Maduro originally accused him of terrorism and murder, but those charges were later dropped.

He is accused of inciting anti-government protests throughout Venezuela that began February 12.

Venezuela's state run news agency said that 39 people have died and more than 600 injured in clashes.

The government blames the protests on "a wave of violence fostered by right-wing leaders in the country."

If found guilty, Lopez could face nearly 14 years in prison.

    Lopez, a fiery speaker and charismatic leader, has long been a threat to the socialists in power in Venezuela.

    Back in 2008, the government of then-President Hugo Chavez banned him from running for public office, accusing him of corruption and misuse of public funds.

    Lopez countered that it was all political retribution and that he had nothing to hide. He took his case all the way to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where he was cleared three years later.

    Earlier this year, Lopez organized protests demanding better security, an end to shortages and protected freedom of speech.