UN calls for “independent investigation” into death of Venezuelan dissident

The United Nations human rights office on Wednesday called on the Venezuelan government to allow an “independent investigation” into the death in custody of a prominent dissident.

General Raul Baduel, who aligned himself with the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela but then broke ranks with the socialist strongman and spent years as a leading political prisoner, has died of Covid-19, according to an official announcement earlier this week.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Raul Baduel in detention. We call on #Venezuela to ensure an independent investigation,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Twitter.

The office also demanded that Venezuelan detainees have access to health care and called on the government to release those who have been arbitrarily detained.

Baduel’s daughter, Andreina Baduel, accused President Nicolas Maduro’s regime of having “murdered” her father, adding on Twitter that “it was not true that he had Covid-19”.

Baduel served as defense minister under Chavez and helped reinstate him after the April 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power.

But the two later fell out after Baduel opposed a constitutional reform proposed by Chavez.

In 2009, Baduel was charged with corruption and jailed for eight years.

Released in 2015, Baduel was arrested again in 2017 and charged with conspiracy against Maduro.

Two of Baduel’s sons were also arrested for alleged conspiracy.

Raul Emilio Baduel has since been released but Josnars Adolfo Baduel remains in custody, accused of participating in the failed May 2020 sea invasion known as “Operation Gideon” which aimed to overthrow Maduro.

Gonzalo Himiob, a lawyer with Foro Penal, a human rights organization that provides legal aid, said Baduel was the 10th political prisoner to die in custody since 2015.

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