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VENEZUELA

UN calls for probe into death of Venezuelan opposition politician

Juan Barreto, AFP | Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate in front of the SEBIN intelligence service building, where opposition councillor Fernando Alban is alleged to have committed suicide, in Caracas on October 8.
3 min

The UN called Tuesday for a probe into the death of an opposition politician accused of involvement in a failed drone attack against President Nicolas Maduro. Authorities say his death was a suicide while opposition figures believe he was murdered.

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Attorney General Tarek William Saab told state television VTV that Fernando Alban, who was in pretrial detention at the headquarters of the intelligence service, asked to go to the restroom and then threw himself from a 10th-floor window.

A city council member from Caracas, Alban was arrested on Friday. He was among at least 15 people detained and charged in connection with an August 4 incident in which President Maduro came under attack by two drones. Television footage showed Maduro reacting to an off-camera explosion while he addressed a military parade in Caracas. A second explosion was heard and the assembled troops were seen breaking formation and scattering in panic. Maduro was unhurt but several soldiers were wounded.

Maduro later said the blasts came from explosives-laden drones sent to assassinate him. Opposition figures accused Maduro of fabricating the incident to step up repression in his country, which is suffering from an acute economic crisis and widespread shortages.

Opposition in exile

Alban's First Justice party blamed the government for his death. “We hold Maduro and his regime of torture responsible,” it said in a statement.

Maduro has blamed the drone attack on First Justice founder Julio Borges, who now lives in exile in Colombia.

Borges said on Twitter that it was the “cruelty of the dictatorship" that ended Alban's life.

Venezuela's attorney general has promised a thorough investigation.

The visiting US chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said on Twitter the government had a “responsibility to ensure all understand how that could have happened”.

UN calls for probe

The United Nations called Tuesday for a “transparent investigation” into Alban’s death. A spokeswoman for the UN rights office, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters the Caracas government had “an obligation to ensure [Alban’s] safety, personal integrity and dignity”.

“We are concerned about news of his death ... We do, indeed, call for a transparent investigation to clarify the circumstances of his death,” she added.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, also a First Justice member, joined those saying the Maduro government was responsible.

“Those of us who knew Fernando know that he could NEVER have acted against his life,” he said on Twitter.

The city councilman’s lawyer, Joel Garcia, told reporters it was too soon to confirm whether the case was a suicide.

Interior and Justice Minister General Nestor Reverol lamented the death of the politician who, he said, was “involved in destabilising acts directed from abroad”.

Venezuela accuses Colombia of shielding those behind the alleged assassination attempt.

The United States in August condemned the arbitrary detentions and forced confessions allegedly used by the Venezuelan government in its investigation of the drone incident.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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