Lawyer Who Helped Convict Opposition Leader Flees Venezuela, Citing Trial’s ‘False Evidence’

Political unrest is a daily reality in Venezuela, and for those who fight against government oppression, the consequences can be severe. Now a prosecutor in one of the most high-profile cases against anti-government activists has fled the country and, in turn, criticized Venezuelan leadership.

Franklin Nieves was one of two main prosecutors against Leopoldo López, and he helped win a conviction against the opposition leader. But now, however, he claims that the government used false evidence in its conviction of López and that the trial was all a ruse organized by President Nicolás Maduro’s administration.

Nieves said that he could no longer stay in the country because he just couldn’t stand for the actions of his superiors. In a video released online, Nieves said he left with his family “because of the pressure I was under from the executive branch and my superiors to continue to defend the false evidence that was used to convict Leopoldo López.”

As the lies against López piled up, so did Nieves’s stress. “Those who know me know the anguish that I went through,” he said in his video, “how I couldn’t sleep because of the pain and the pressure that I felt continuing with the farce, continuing this case that unjustly violated the rights of this person.”

No doubt Nieves was under considerable stress during and after the trials. On top of that, his erratic sleep schedule could have only made things worse, as research shows that lying awake for 15 to 20 minutes or more can make it difficult to get any shut-eye at all.

With the admission of the trial’s fraudulent evidence, López’s lawyer has called for the decision to be overturned and his client to be set free. In September, López was given a lengthy sentence and is serving time in a military prison.

During the trial, which lasted more than a year, López was accused of using subliminal messaging on social media. Prosecutors claimed that López preached a violent antigovernment sentiment, despite repeatedly advocating for nonviolence during peaceful protests against the Venezuelan government.

International human rights advocates have spoken out against the trial and the lack of due process leading to López’s conviction.