Venezuela’s Penal Forum estimates that Nearly three-quarters of all political detainees are awaiting trial for more than two years, the group said on Monday, arguing it is a sign that authorities use pretrial detention as a punishment.
Venezuelan law states that pretrial detention cannot last more than that time, Penal Forum's directors Alfredo Romero and Gonzalo Himiob said in a press conference, noting that 49 of the 323 individuals they consider political prisoners have been detained for longer than that amount of time.
They are arbitrarily keeping them longer, Romero said, adding that 74% of those 323 detainees have not even had their trial begin, which is to say, they have not even had one hearing.
Rights groups, Venezuela's opposition, and Western democracies including the United States have long argued that President Nicolas Maduro's government uses the justice system to quash political dissent.
Maduro frequently accuses opponents of terrorism or seeking to oust him in coups. The government denies that Venezuela holds political prisoners.
Romero said that 10 of the prisoners monitored by Penal Forum have spent four years behind bars, and four have been awaiting trial for six years. He said 20% of the detainees have had their trials begin, while 6% have pled guilty.
These people are being used to set an example in criminal procedures that go on forever, making them a tool of political persecution, Himiob said.
The group of 323 prisoners includes 23 women, while the rest are men. At least 123 of the detainees are members of the military.
With information from Reuters