Antonio Ledezma, one of the most high-profile critics of President Nicolas Maduro, has gone on trial in Venezuela on conspiracy charges
The former mayor of Caracas has gone on trial in Venezuela after a year of being detained without charge.
Antonio Ledezma, the 60-year-old adversary of President Nicolas Maduro, was on Monday formally accused of conspiracy and criminal association – charges which carry a possible 26 year sentence.
Mr Ledezma, mayor since 2008, was seized from his offices in February 2015. Initially held in the same military prison as Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela’s most high-profile dissident, he has since April been kept under house arrest – a move which critics of Mr Maduro see as an attempt to silence dissent.
“Today they seek to condemn another innocent man,” said Mr Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori.
Omar Estacio, Mr Ledezma’s lawyer, told The Telegraph that the veteran politician was optimistic.
“He’s strong, and in good spirits,” he said. “He knows that, as mayor, he did the right thing in warning about the crisis engulfing Venezuela.
“The situation now is even worse than it was in 2014, when he called for a change in politics. He’s been proved right.”
Mr Estacio said the next step was to appeal against the judge’s ruling that their defence experts could not be heard. They wish to call a man, Jose Arocha, who initially accused Mr Ledezma of plotting a coup – but has since fled to the US and said he was tortured into making the statements.
They also hope to call computer experts who can testify that the messenger programmes they allegedly used to conspire for a coup were not actually invented until after the conversation is said to have happened.
“I’m a lawyer, so I have to keep the faith in our justice system,” he said.
“And for all the circus around this case, I have confidence that the truth will out eventually.”
On Tuesday afternoon Venezuela’s national assembly was preparing to debate a motion to grant amnesty to both men.
Mr Ledezma’s wife Mitzy – a vocal campaigner for his freedom – tweeted a photograph of the order for the day, saying: “This fills us with hope.”
Henry Ramos, leader of the national assembly, said the prosecutor and the judge in Mr Ledezma’s case were “an embarrassment to the justice system.”