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Venezuela passes amnesty bill likely to free political prisoners


Venezuela’s opposition-controlled national assembly has passed an amnesty bill that could free many people said to be political prisoners.

It was passed after a heated discussion late on Tuesday.

The passage of the law means some 76 high-profile opposition figures currently behind bars could be freed.

Some of them have already been convicted while others are facing trial.

Hundreds of ordinary Venezuelans who were reportedly persecuted and exiled for opposing the government of the late president Hugo Chavez could also be freed.

But President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to veto the bill.

“They are passing a law to protect murderers, criminals, drug traffickers and terrorists. Rest assured that the law will not pass through,” he said.

If the bill does become law, more than 70 detainees including hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez could be freed.

Lopez was convicted for provoking anti-government protests in 2014.

He was found guilty of arson, violence and damage to public property and was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.

Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, welcomed the passing of the bill, said it was “felt in all of Venezuela, like a fireworks rocket going off in Caracas, full of emotion, freedom and strength,” the BBC reported.

“Today, with this amnesty law, we’re taking a major step towards the rescue of democracy and liberty,” she is quoted to have said.

Under the Venezuelan constitution, the president can send a bill back to the National Assembly, but the latter can override the veto with an absolute majority (half of those present at the time of the vote plus one).


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