Inmate Testimony Casts Doubt on Venezuelan Judge’s Rape Allegations
- Inmate Testimony Casts Doubt on Venezuelan Judge�s Rape Allegations
Dec 3rd 2012, by Chris Carlson
[image: Maria Lourdes Afiuni in her home where she has been under house
arrest since February 2011 (El Universal)]
Maria Lourdes Afiuni in her home where she has been under house arrest
since February 2011 (El Universal)
Punto Fijo, December 3rd, 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) � Various statements
from inmates and state officials have cast doubt on the allegations by
Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni that she was raped while in prison
two years ago. Venezuelan authorities say the new allegations are part of a
media campaign against the Chavez government.
The case has become famous in recent years after Afiuni was arrested in
2009 and accused of corruption and abuse of power for releasing from jail a
banker accused of corruption and the theft of more than US$25 million. The
banker, Eligio Cede�o, immediately fled to the United States where he has
been sheltered from prosecution, angering Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
who called for the judge who freed him to be prosecuted.
Last week the case took a new turn when Afiuni alleged in a newly published
book by opposition journalist Francisco Olivares that she had been raped
while in jail in 2010. However, authorities and fellow inmates at the jail
have cast doubt on the allegations.
�If that [rape] really happened, she would have said something that same
day. She knows the procedures and knows that after two years doctors cannot
tell if she was raped or not,� said one fellow inmate on state television
In addition to the rape, the judge alleges that she was impregnated by the
rape and had a miscarriage while in jail. She also alleges to have been the
victim of a knife attack.
However, her fellow inmates questioned that she could have been pregnant,
saying that the judge, who was 46 years old at the time, often complained
of having hot flashes, a sign of menopause. They also doubted that she had
ever been victim of any knife attack.
�There was only one time where she made a complaint. They entered her cell
and checked her, and there was nothing out of the ordinary. We all signed a
document confirming that nothing had been done to her,� a fellow inmate
State authorities also doubted that any such attacks could have happened
while the judge was at the women�s prison, citing the special treatment
given to her by prison authorities, and the frequent visits by state
�I met with her every week, we talked, and since her case was so
politicized we treated her with care so as to avoid her imprisonment from
turning into a media circus,� said the state public defender Raiza Bastardo.
�They granted her special visits all the time. She had many friends,
lawyers, judges, investigators, and other people who came to visit her and
could freely enter the prison,� one inmate said.
The public defender also pointed out that Afiuni had been in a cell alone,
in a restricted area of the prison that had been set up to receive cases
such as police officers, judges, and attorneys that could be at-risk in the
general prison population.
The state television channel VTV interviewed several inmates last week who
confirmed that the judge had received special treatment, and that she did
not have contact with officials from the National Guard, who presumably
would have been responsible for the rape given that the women�s prison has
an all-female staff.
�The only contact she had with officials from the National Guard was when
they did the roll call, a routine procedure in which I was usually present
to guarantee everything was carried out normally,� said Bastardo.
Minister of Prison Services Iris Varela called the accusations a �lie� and
questioned the credibility of the former judge.
�At no time was that woman sexually violated. We have the testimony of her
fellow inmates from the women�s prison. Why should we believe Afiuni�s
story and not believe the people who were with her and served her at the
prison? Who is more credible?� she said.
Venezuela�s Attorney General Luisa Ortega assured that an investigation
into the rape would be carried out, and called on Afiuni to file a formal
complaint. However, on Friday the ex-judge refused to cooperate with the
investigation, citing fears that the state would prosecute her for making a
�They want Afiuni and her lawyers to file a complaint so that they can open
an investigation and show that there was no crime, and then accuse her of
making a false accusation,� said defense attorney Thelma Fern�ndez.
�We aren�t going to play that game,� she said.
Under house arrest since 2011, Afiuni has boycotted all of her court
hearings, causing her trial to be at a standstill for more than a year.
However, the trial finally began last Friday in the judge�s absence.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch have called for Afiuni to be released, and have condemned her trial
as being under �undue political interference� after President Hugo Chavez
made several sharp comments about the judge on national television and
asked for her to receive the maximum sentence.
The Venezuelan opposition claims that President Chavez personally ordered
the judge to be imprisoned, even though his comments came the day after she
had already been arrested. The former judge was arrested immediately after
having facilitated the release and flight of Eligio Cede�o on December
Venezuelan authorities insist that the case has nothing do with human
rights, and is being used for political purposes both nationally and
�In this country any crime that is committed by any person is immediately
qualified as a political persecution in order to weaken the investigation,�
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