NEW YORK — he Human Rights Foundation (HRF) calls on the Venezuelan regime to immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Lisbeth Añez, who has been held at the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) in the Helicoide since May.
Añez, who has been wrongfully accused of "treason" and "military rebellion," will appear before a military court tomorrow, August 15, for a preliminary hearing. The court will decide whether or not to formally charge Añez and bring her case to trial. Known as Mamá Lis in the Venezuelan media, Añez became a public figure three years ago for providing food, clothing, and medicine to students participating in the 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations in Caracas.
On May 11, agents of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) seized Añez as she was about to board an international flight in Caracas’ Maiquetía airport. The 51-year-old was traveling abroad to seek medical care for a chronic disease; she has been unable to obtain treatment in Venezuela due to the widespread shortage of medication.
"The imprisonment of Lisbeth Añez is a cruel attack on her life, in tune with the vengeful, bitter, and vicious way in which the Venezuelan dictatorship operates,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov. "They have prevented her from getting critical medical treatment, and in a perverse twist of fate, Lisbeth Añez is being held in the headquarters of the dictatorship’s political police, where, not long ago, she lent her unconditional support to other victims of the regime. Lisbeth must be released immediately," added Kasparov.
Lisbeth Añez was taken before a military court on May 12, where a judge instructed that she be held in custody at the headquarters of SEBIN in the Helicoide, a shopping mall that was turned into the intelligence service headquarters, including its political prisons and dungeons, since the 1990's. She was kept in solitary confinement for 24 days, until June 4, and deprived of her right to an attorney and to see her family. Añez has had no access to medical care in almost three months of imprisonment, even though she is suffering from a serious illness.
In 2014, Lisbeth Añez visited two campsites set up by students who were protesting the violent repression of demonstrations by the Venezuelan regime. Añez provided the students much-needed clothes, food, and medicines. Añez continued to support the students even after the camps were violently scattered and the students arrested. She visited the detainees in the notorious SEBIN headquarters in the Helicoide, where she herself would later be imprisoned.
Añez’s eldest son told HRF that she stopped visiting the detained students in late 2016, when her inability to obtain medication began to take a toll on her health. He pointed out that the preliminary hearing had been originally set for July 17, but regime officials postponed it twice: once to Thursday, August 10, and later to Tuesday, August 15. He also noted that the officials treated his mother’s health and wellbeing with indifference.
“Lisbeth Añez’s unjustified and prolonged deprivation of liberty, and her prosecution before a military court that is neither competent to hear her case nor impartial by any means, are illegal measures that violate her rights to personal liberty and due process,” said Centa B. Rek Chajtur, international legal associate at HRF. “Using these military courts to prosecute civilians for protesting the government violates international human rights law,” Rek Chajtur added.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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