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Seven people in Venezuela detained for their tweets

From August 22 to October 15, 2014, at least seven persons were detained for expressing their opinions on Twitter, and were later transferred to the Helicoide, the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), a state security corps. To date, IPYS-Venezuela has learned that at least 2 people have been set free.

Inés Margarita González Árraga, specialist in chemistry at Ohio University (U.S.A.), was arrested after publishing on her Twitter account (@inesitaterrible) opinions on the death of congressman Robert Serra.

After receiving a subpoena from the public prosecutor's office, Inés went to the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), the state security corps, in Zulia, to offer her statement. Celia Dao, the regional coordinator of human rights advocacy organization Foro Penal Venezolano, said that the scientist even took her laptop so that it could be checked out. “After the interview they told her that she was arrested”, the lawyer told IPYS-Venezuela.

At the presentation hearing which took place on October 6, the district attorney for the 13th control court charged the 41-year old chemist for the crimes of public instigation, violent offense and offense towards a public official. For this reason, the public ministry requested that she be detained, as she was determined to be a flight risk.

However, as per Inés' lawyer's statements –the only one of the 7 cases studied by Foro Penal- the hearing was invalidated after it was discovered that the minutes of the hearing did not include the detail that the security agents were in possession of her laptop.

The attorney indicated that they shall appeal this preliminary decision since the defense does not believe that these crimes warrant incarceration.

Inés González Árraga describes herself in her Twitter bio as: “Agitator by trade in the process of accumulating forces. Dissident of the regime of Toripollo Genocide. Chávez I swear to you, we shall overthrow Maduro”. In spite of this, according to her defendant, “if she committed a crime, it was to use words she already apologized publicly for”.

She has now been detained for 21 days at the Helicoide in Caracas. Twenty-one days without sunlight. “She is in good health, her family members have been able to verify that”, Celia said. Nevertheless, she indicated that González's case is barely at the investigation phase, which takes approximately 45 days.

Six Other Persons Arrested

Along the same line, Diosdado Cabello, president of the national assembly, in his program “Con el mazo dando”, on Thursday October 16, accused six other persons of sending “threatening messages and mockery of the murder of Robert Serra and María Herrera”.

Based on information by the National College of Journalists (CNP), the other persons accused were:

1. Ginette Hernández Marcano, 23 years old, is a student at the school of Arts at the Central University of Venezuela. Since last October 15 she has been held at the headquarters of the Sebin, in the Helicoide. She is accused of managing the account @Hiipolita, that predicted the death of congressman Serra. The crimes are IT fraud and creating panic and gloom and doom in the collective public.

2. Lessi Marcano, alleged uncle of Ginette. Also linked to the account @Hiipolita and accused of the same crimes as Ginette Hernández. Held at the Sebin headquarters at the Helicoide.

3. Leonel Sánchez Camero was arrested on August 22. He is a resident of Barinas and is allegedly the owner of account @anonymuswar, also linked according to the investigation, with hacking the Twitter accounts of Jacqueline Faría (current minister of communications), Gabriela del Mar Ramírez (ombudsman) and Eduardo Lima (AN congressman).

4. Víctor Ugas was arrested on October 13 for airing images of the cadaver of congressman Robert Serra.

5. Abrahan David Muñoz Marchán is 18 years old and is a student of engineering at Universidad de Carabobo. Arrested for his comments on the death of Robert Serra. On October 9 he was transferred to the headquarters of the Sebin at the Helicoide, Caracas. However, attorney Alfredo Romero said that he is now free but subject to some conditions.

6. Daniely Benítez was arrested for allegedly being linked to Twitter account @Hiipolita, but according to his defending attorney José Vicente Haro, no link has been demonstrated, so he was released the afternoon of that Friday October 17. Daniely is a student at the school of arts at the Central University of Venezuela and member of the Symphonic Orchestra of Venezuela.

Some were deprived of freedom, others were liberated under certain restrictions. None have been charged or formally sentenced by the public prosecutor. “The protests have ended, and now there is the persecution of freedom of expression”, said Celia Dao.

On October 26, 2014, journalist Joseph Poliszuk of El Universal newspaper, reported that at least nine other persons have been investigated for giving opinions, expressing, divulging and protesting for their rights in the nation. Among them are Ángel Sarmiento, president of the College of Doctors of Aragua state; Eduardo Garmendia, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Industrialists (Conindustria); indigenous Alexis Romero; Guillermo López, electrical engineer; attorney Marcelo Crovato; Hernán Lugo Galicia and Sofía Nedder, journalists of El Nacional newspaper, among others.

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Future of press freedom in post-Mugabe #Zimbabwe remains open https://t.co/KQmletvyDq @RSF_en @PastorEvanLive… https://t.co/H3VAAkRFEM