(Reuters) – Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez went on trial in Venezuela on Wednesday, accused of masterminding anti-government protests that turned violent and left 43 people dead.
Days after the demonstrations began in mid-February, Lopez turned himself in to authorities and has been in a military jail since, but protests continued for about three months.
A Caracas court heard accusations against him of inciting crime and being the intellectual author of damages and arson.
Nearly 900 people were also injured in the worst explosion of violence in the South American OPEC member for a decade, as activists opposed to President Nicolas Maduro faced off with government supporters and state security forces.
Some 87 people remain behind bars, including 16 state security officials, after a traumatic period for Venezuela that left the opposition movement divided between hardliners and moderates, and the government shaken but intact.
Asked to comment about the trial at a news conference in his presidential palace, Maduro, describing the question as “provocative”, lambasted Lopez and urged punishment.