CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A jailed prominent opponent of Venezuela’s socialist government has been transferred to a new prison.
Daniel Ceballos phoned his mother before dawn Saturday to say he had been moved to one of Venezuela’s most-violent penitentiaries, in the town of San Juan de los Morros, his lawyer and supporters said. That was later denied by Venezuela’s ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, who said he had met with Ceballos at a different, recently opened jail in the same town. In a string of messages posted on Twitter, Saab said Ceballos was in good health and the ombudsman’s office would continue to monitor the conditions of his confinement.
Ceballos, who was removed as mayor of the western city of San Cristobal during anti-government protests last year, had been held in a military prison outside Caracas alongside Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader jailed.
It’s not clear why Ceballos was moved. His lawyer, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, said neither he nor any relative of Ceballos had seen the judge’s order.
The prison where Ceballos was taken opened in February and has a capacity for 1,970 inmates.
The transfer comes less than a week after Ceballos from behind bars won a primary in San Cristobal to stand as the opposition alliance’s candidate in legislative elections expected later this year. Under Venezuelan law, a win in the general election could free Ceballos from jail because legislators receive immunity from prosecution during their terms.
Ceballos was arrested in March 2014 and quickly convicted on charges of disobeying authority for his refusal to remove barricades set up by demonstrators in San Cristobal. Although he completed that one-year sentence, he was ordered held in jail while awaiting trial on more serious charges tied to his support for protests in the city, which kicked off a nationwide wave of anti-government unrest.
Saab said that he had also met on Saturday with Lopez, who he said had been disciplined after a cellphone was found in his cell in violation of prison rules. Prison authorities said it was the third mobile phone found in Lopez’s cell in four months, Saab said.
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