CARACAS Venezuelan authorities on Saturday released former opposition governor and presidential candidate Manuel Rosales from house arrest and freed five lesser-known anti-government activists from prison, Rosales said via Twitter.
Rosales was jailed in 2015 upon his return to Venezuela from Peru, where he fled six years earlier after being charged with illicit enrichment by the government of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. He was granted house arrest in October.
“I inform the people of Venezuela that I have been freed along with other political prisoners,” Rosales wrote. “We continue fighting for the release of all the political prisoners and the return of those in exile.”
Five other activists were released from prison on the condition that they not leave the country and appear periodically in court, according to lawyer Gonzalo Himiob of rights group Penal Forum. They had been arrested in 2014, when the opposition led a wave of protests pressing for President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
Opposition leaders say Maduro’s government is holding close to 100 political prisoners who were unjustly jailed for protesting against his administration, including former mayor and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
International political figures have called for their release, including President Barack Obama and South African Nobel peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Maduro denies the country holds political prisoners, insisting those in jail were arrested for involvement in street violence or in plots to overthrow his government.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth Editing by W Simon)