Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy

Hugo Chavez Abusing Extradition Laws, Says Lawyer

| by DeepDiveAdmin

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.

"We 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.

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."

Cedeno 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.

"Here 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 "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."

Cedeno 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."

In 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 this fact."