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UN calls for independent investigation into death of ex-Venezuelan minister

The Venezuelan government has said Raul Baduel, who was defense minister under Hugo Chavez, has died from the coronavirus.

United Nations human rights office urged Venezuela to conduct an “independent investigation” into the death of jailed former minister Raul Baduel, a prominent dissident who was considered a political prisoner by the country’s opposition .

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Raul Baduel in detention,” the office, headed by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We call on #Venezuela to ensure an independent investigation, to take all necessary measures to guarantee access to health care for detainees, to consider alternative measures of detention and to release all detainees arbitrarily. “

Baduel was arrested in 2009 on corruption charges after falling out with the Socialist Party, was eventually placed under house arrest, and then re-jailed in 2017 for allegedly conspiring against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

A retired general, he served as Venezuela’s defense minister under former President Hugo Chavez. But the relationship between the two later collapsed after Baduel opposed a constitutional reform proposed by Chavez.

Two of Baduel’s sons were also arrested for alleged conspiracy.

Raul Emilio Baduel has since been released but Josnars Adolfo Baduel remains in detention, accused of participating in the failed May 2020 sea invasion known as “Operation Gideon” which aimed to overthrow Maduro.

The country’s attorney general announced Baduel’s death on Tuesday, saying he had died from the coronavirus.

But Tarek Saab didn’t say if he was hospitalized or in prison upon his death. Baduel had been detained at an intelligence police site in Sebin.

Baduel was Minister of Defense under former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [File: Jenny Fung/AFP]

“We regret the death of Raul Isaias Baduel from heart and respiratory failure, the product of COVID-19, despite receiving the corresponding medical care and having received the first dose of the vaccine,” Saab said in an article on Twitter.

Baduel’s family said they learned of his death via Twitter.

“I did not receive a call from any member of the government,” his wife, Cruz Zambrano de Baduel, told Internet channel EVTV. She added that she was skeptical that her husband, whom she had last seen four weeks ago, had contracted COVID-19.

Human rights groups blamed the government for his death.

“With the death of Raul Isaias Baduel, ten political prisoners died in custody,” Gonzalo Himiob, lawyer for Foro Penal, a rights organization that provides legal aid, said on Twitter.

“The responsibility for the life and health of any prisoner rests with the state. “




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