MIAMI --- The Supreme Court of
Venezuela yesterday granted an extradition request made by state prosecutors for
the former businessman and political prisoner Eligio Cedeno, who recently fled to the United States following his release from
almost three years of imprisonment without trial.
The attorney for Cedeno issued a press release today that says:
The [Venezuelan] Supreme Court,
which is artificially packed with judges politically loyal to the
president, has revealed its lack of independence with this decision,
and is causing damage to Venezuela's foreign relations, said Robert
Amsterdam, a lawyer representing Cedeno.
are witnessing only the latest chapter in President Hugo Chavez's long
history of abusing international treaties, ordering extraditions from
various governments to chase down political opponents instead of real
criminals and security threats," said Amsterdam. "Mr. Chavez is hoping
the international media will be too lazy to look at the facts. Has
Cedeno ever been convicted of a crime? No.
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Can they show any proof of
involvement in their accusations? No, because if they could they
wouldn't have suspended the first trial right before Cedeno's
acquittal. Can they explain why they have jailed one judge, attempted
to kidnap the child of another judge, and fired a prosecutor, just for
showing independence in the Cedeno case? Of course not. It's a flagrant
abuse by the Chavez government."
legally entered the United States on Dec. 19 and was released into
freedom on Dec. 23 after processing by U.S. immigration authorities. On
Christmas Day, Cedeno released his first statement to the public since
Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni ordered his conditional release from
pre-trial detention, which sets the record straight on the events
leading up to his release, and sharply denounces the misinformation and
conduct of the prosecutors, attorney general, and president.
is how justice works in Venezuela: my constitutional rights were
violated; the laws of the Republic were subverted; judicial
independence was abused; my human rights and those of the others
present in the courtroom were violated; the President of the Republic
acted scandalously the following day, appearing in the national media
to accuse, try and sentence the judge, the bailiffs and even my
attorneys, without any investigation or due process," Cedeno wrote in
his statement, which is available in full on www.eligiocedeno.com.
"Justice in Venezuela is subrogated to the whims of a president who
appoints himself judge and demands the maximum sentence against Judge
Afiuni for having followed the law."
continued: "These reactions made it clear that I was truly a political
prisoner of the Chavez regime, and worse yet, a personal prisoner of
President Chavez for reasons that still escape me. I had no choice but
to leave my own country -- particularly given Chavez's order to capture
me, dead or alive, broadcast in the media -- which is to say that the
President placed a bounty on my head."
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response to the extradition request, Cedeno's lawyer Robert Amsterdam
urged observers not to take Chavez at his word: "A politician who sings
the praises of Carlos the Jackal and Idi Amin cannot be taken seriously
when it comes to extradition matters. Considering President Hugo
Chavez's angry and personal outburst against Cedeno on national
television, which showed that the case is motivated by purely political
reasons, it is hard to imagine any court ignoring the unconstitutional
conduct of Chavez in this case -- and the president is fully aware of