CARACAS – The case of Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, in custody for almost three years amid international condemnation of her imprisonment, took an unexpected turn with the publication of a book in which she says she was raped in prison.
Arrested in December 2009 after the flight abroad of a businessman charged with various crimes, an occurrence that led Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to denounce her, Afiuni reported that she was raped in a Caracas jail.
She became pregnant after the assault and underwent an abortion behind bars, Afiuni told the book’s author, Francisco Olivares.
In the first public reaction from the government, the minister for women’s affairs, Nancy Perez, said she had received no complaint about the alleged rape, but said that if there are guilty parties they will be punished.
Afiuni, now 46, was moved from prison to house arrest in February 2010.
“We’re upset – I don’t know what to say. In the family we didn’t know anything like that happened, on top of all the other monstrosities inflicted on her,” the judge’s elder brother, Nelson Afiuni, told Efe Friday after learning of the revelation.
Afiuni’s lawyer, Jose Graterol, told Efe Friday that he considers Chavez “guilty of what happened” to Afiuni in prison.
The assault was perpetrated by prison employees that Afiuni has “perfectly identified,” the lawyer said.
The prosecution of the judge has been at a standstill since April 2011 due to Afiuni’s decision to boycott court hearings.
Chavez said in December 2009 that Afiuni was a criminal who had allied attorneys and court employees to enable the escape of indicted banker Eligio Cedeño.
The president said then that Afiuni should have to serve the maximum sentence, which in Venezuela is 30 years.
International organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have requested the judge’s release, alleging undue political interference. EFE