October 24, 2015 / 1:33 PM / in 2 years

Venezuela prosecutor who accused Lopez flees country: report

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan state prosecutor who helped lead charges against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has fled the country and accused the socialist government of pressing him to use false evidence to unfairly condemn Lopez, local media reported.

News website La Patilla posted a video in which a man who identifies himself as Franklin Nieves says the trial violated the rights of Lopez, who was sentenced to nearly 14 years in September on charges stemming from his role in a wave of protests in 2014.

"I decided to leave Venezuela with my family as a result of the pressure being exerted by the executive branch ... that I continue defending the false evidence that was used to condemn Leopoldo Lopez," says the man in the video.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the recording. The state prosecutor's office and the Information Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

One of Lopez's lawyers, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, said via Twitter that Nieves' statements showed Lopez's imprisonment was illegal.

Opposition leaders say Lopez's trial was a mockery of justice and point to it as evidence that the government of President Nicolas Maduro is stifling dissent. Global rights groups widely condemned the trial proceedings as unfair.

Government leaders say Lopez, considered part of the hard-line wing of the opposition, incited violence last year that kicked off more than three months of opposition street protests, which ultimately left more than 40 people dead.

"Those of you who know me know the anguish that I went through, how I didn't sleep ... the pain and the pressure that I felt by continuing with a farce," Nieves said.

Opposition critics say the judicial system is controlled by the ruling Socialist Party and widely used to intimidate government adversaries.

In 2012, supreme court magistrate Eladio Aponte fled the country and later accused the government of systematically intervening in the courts for political ends.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Frances Kerry

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