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Caracas Metropolitan Police officers found guilty of crimes committed during the April 2002 coup

On Friday, former police captains Lázaro Forero, Henry Vivas and Iván Simonovis of the Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM) were found guilty of first degree murder, attempted homicide and of causing injuries, and sentenced to 30 years in prison for their actions in April 11, 2002.

This announcement was made by Antonio Molina, a lawyer for the victims of these crimes, from the Maracay Court in the state of Aragua.

Regarding other, lower-ranking PM officials accused in these crimes, Molina noted that Luis Molina Serrada, Erasmo Bolívar and Julio Rodríguez were also sentenced to 30 years in prison for first degree murder, attempted homicide and causing injuries.

Former police commissioner Aruber Salazar was sentenced to 17 years and 10 months in prison for first degree murder.

Marcos Hurtado, another former commissioner, received 16 years in prison for being an accomplice to the crimes of first degree murder, attempted murder and causing injuries.

Regarding Rafael Luis Alfredo López, the court found him not guilty and unanimously determined that he was not responsible.

Officer Ramón Humberto Zapata was sentenced to three years in jail for covering up these crimes.  It was shown that although he did not fire any shots on April 11, 2002, he was present when his colleagues committed the crimes.  Nevertheless, during the subsequent investigation and trial, he remained silent and never spoke out about the events.

Molina confirmed that López and Zapata will be set free, the latter for time served during the judicial proceedings.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Aragua, led by Judge Maryorie Calderón, began its deliberation phase on Thursday to determine a verdict in the cases of Forero, Vivas, Simonovis and the other officers charged with these crimes.

The trial ended at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday.  13 victims and 11 defendants testified before Calderón and three other judges who formed the court hearing this trial, which began on March 20, 2006.

The ninth hearing of the final stage of the trial, which occurred on Thursday, featured testimony from victims Yesenia Fuentes, Edgar Márquez, Doris Infantes, Víctor Dávila, Andrés Trujillo, Acelia Duque, Jovanny Sánchez, Milvia Campos, Juan Acosta, Luis Beltrán and Jorge Recio, who testified via telephone from Spain.

This stage of the trial also provided the final opportunity for the defendants to speak to the judges.  They were accused by the Attorney General and victims of first degree murder, attempted murder, causing serious injuries, causing injuries, causing minor injuries, and the undue use of firearms and weapons of war.

The PM officers were accused of assassinating Rudi Urbano, Josefina Rengifo, and Erasmo Sánchez close to Llaguno Bridge on the Baralt Avenue of Caracas (which is close to Miraflores Palace), as well as of causing injuries to 29 people on April 11, 2002.

The trial began on March 20, 2006 and included 230 hearings, in which 265 forensic analyses were presented, as well as 5,700 photographs and 20 videos.  Furthermore, 198 witness and 48 experts testified.

Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / April 3, 2009

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