Venezuelan human rights activist Lilian Tintori has posted footage of her husband, politician Leopoldo Lopez, being seized by officials from their home in the middle of the night.
In a caption, she adds “the dictatorship kidnapped Leopoldo from my house” at 12:27am.
“They just took Leopoldo from the house. We do not know where he is or where he is being taken. Maduro is responsible if something happens to him,” she tweeted, pointing the finger at President Nicolás Maduro, who called for a vote on Sunday that critics fear will erase any traces of democracy in Venezuela.
The controversial election, which was boycotted by members of the opposition, elected members of a new legislative body — the Constituent National Assembly — consisting virtually only of Maduro supporters. The new body will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution, and is expected to replace the previous legislative body, where the opposition has a majority. It also aims to establish a “truth commission” to prosecute political opponents.
CNN reported that Lopez and fellow opposition figure Antonio Ledezma were each taken from their homes early on Tuesday after publicly opposing the election. It was not immediately clear who seized the men, but the video posted by Tintori shows him being driven away in a car with SEBIN markings (the nation’s central intelligence agency), according to CNN. Lopez — a former mayor with ambitions for presidency — had been under house arrest, having already served a couple of years in prison in the wake of an anti-government protest in 2014. His 14-year sentence and incarceration have been widely condemned by the international community and human rights groups as politically motivated.
Lopez was transferred to house arrest as a “humanitarian measure” after allegations by Tintori and other supporters that Lopez had been subject to torture, including being isolated for 548 of his first 1,000 days in prison. Tintori also released a video in June shot outside the prison, in which a man understood to be Mr Lopez was heard screaming that he was being tortured, the Telegraph reported.
The Supreme Court had agreed to look at his case due to “serious signs of irregularities”; it said in a statement on Saturday that it had granted the transfer as a “humanitarian measure”.
Following Lopez’s arrest, Tintori became the face of the Venezuelan democracy movement. In a 2015 profile published in The Atlantic, Tintori described herself as “a human-rights activist, a Venezuelan, a mother, and a victim myself, and I’m very close to the victims of my country.” The former kite-surfing champion and reality TV personality was thrust into her newly political role following her husband’s arrest, making trips abroad to meet with a range of powerful figures, including Vice President Joe Biden, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Pope Francis. In February this year, Tintori traveled to the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, and in May she met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.
In a courageous 2014 Op-Ed, penned for the Washington Post to mark Lopez’s 43rd birthday, Tintori called on President Maduro to release Lopez along with the “more than 100 political prisoners” being held in Venezuela.
Maduro in turn accused her of being controlled by the “far right” in the United States, and called for her campaign to be “neutralized”.
Following Sunday’s vote, members of the international community imposed new sanctions, and young Venezuelans took to the streets, leading to violent clashes with law enforcement. At least 10 people were killed, according to the BBC. The U.S. government has frozen any assets held by Maduro in the United States, and U.S. firms and individuals are banned from doing business with him.
Read the full story at CNN.