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U.N. criticizes Venezuela's President Chavez for judge's arrest

Human rights experts say the detention of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who has been denied a public defender, has created a climate of fear among legal professionals in that country.

December 17, 2009|Reuters

Geneva — Three U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday accused President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela of creating a climate of fear within his country's legal profession with the arrest last week of a judge.

The three criticized the detention of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who was seized by police Dec. 10, a day after she ordered the conditional release of banker Eligio Cedeno.

"Reprisals for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed functions and creating a climate of fear among the judiciary and lawyers' profession serve no purpose except to undermine the rule of law and obstruct justice," they said in a statement.

According to the statement, issued by the United Nations in Geneva, Afiuni based her decision to free Cedeno on a finding by the United Nations' working group on arbitrary detention in September that his right to a free trial was being violated. She has been charged with corruption, being an accessory to escape, criminal conspiracy and abuse of power, and denied a public defender, they said.

"The immediate and unconditional release of Judge Afiuni is imperative," the U.N. experts added.

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