Venezuela faces calls for probe after opposition activist dies in custody

Venezuelan official: Caracas councilman dies in jail

Venezuela faces calls for probe after opposition activist dies in custody

Singing the national anthem while carrying his coffin, Venezuelan lawmakers on Tuesday paid tribute to an opposition politician whom authorities say killed himself by jumping out a window while in prison but whose party says was murdered.

Alban, 56, was taken into custody Friday at Caracas' worldwide airport upon arriving from NY, according to his lawyer. They later assembled outside Caracas' morgue to demand his body be handed over as rumors spread he would be cremated to hide evidence of possible torture. "The only thing left for this government is torture, violence and destruction".

While dozens of youths were killed in violent street battles with security forces a year ago, the death of government opponents while in state custody came as a shock to many Venezuelans, something akin to the far deadlier, right-wing dictatorships that dominated South America in the 1970s that Maduro frequently denounces.

The authorities later blamed Venezuela's opposition and also Colombia for the attack.

The opposition and rights groups have said Maduro's administration is holding hundreds of political prisoners on trumped-up charges meant to stifle dissent.

Maduro's government denies it holds political prisoners and has said those who have been imprisoned were involved in efforts to destabilize his government. He then threw himself from the 10th floor of the building, officials said.

That account differed from the one by Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab, who said in televised statements that Alban had asked to use a bathroom and jumped from there.

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Maduro has said the alleged August attack amounted to an assassination bid involving explosive-laden drones and his government and has accused neighbor Colombia of shielding the culprits.

The chairman of the US Senate foreign-relations committee, Senator Bob Corker, called on Mr Maduro to explain the reasons for Mr Alban's death. "We understand there are conflicting reports on what exactly happened", she said.

The Organization of American States (OAS), a group of Western hemisphere countries, has condemned Alban's death. He did not provide any evidence and did not say what led him to believe that Alban was killed.

He said he met with Alban the night before in the tribunal and his client had seemed calm.

The Venezuelan opposition, the Justice First party, of which Alban was a member, insisted that the councilman was killed and that the regime of President Nicolas Maduro was responsible.

"With great pain and thirst for justice we tell the people of Venezuela. that Councilman Fernando Alban was murdered at the hands of the regime of Nicolas Maduro", the party said. Garcia said authorities can not determine that a death is a suicide without an investigation and he would ask to be present at the autopsy.

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