Protesters demand Venezuela opposition leader's release

CARACAS, Venezuela – About 300 people gathered Wednesday, February 18, to demand the release of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, one year after he was jailed for allegedly inciting mass protests against the government.

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, led the rally in the same Caracas plaza where the Harvard-educated politician surrendered to security forces February 18, 2014 in the midst of a demonstration.

The oil-rich country was rocked by months-long street protests last year amid rising discontent with the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

At least 43 people were killed in the unrest which pitted troops, police and armed government supporters against student-led protesters.  

Lopez, held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas, has been on trial since July 24, accused of inciting violence by having advocated public protests as a means to pressure Maduro to resign.

He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Human rights groups have charged that the prosecution is politically motivated.

Tintori has campaigned internationally for his release, meeting last week in Washington with US Vice President Joe Biden and OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza. –