30-year prison terms in Venezuela over alleged coup attempt

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab (seen here) has accused ex-opposition leader Juan Guaido of financing the incursion aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro (Juan BARRETO)
Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab (seen here) has accused ex-opposition leader Juan Guaido of financing the incursion aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro (Juan BARRETO)

A Venezuelan court has imposed prison sentences of up to 30 years on 29 people found guilty of participation in a failed attempt to upend President Nicolas Maduro's government.

The sea-borne incursion, dubbed Operation Gedeon, was foiled by Caracas in May 2020, with eight participants killed by the military.

Officials said the operatives had sought to invade Venezuela by sea from Colombia to overthrow Maduro.

Caracas claimed it was headed by retired soldiers and foreign mercenaries and financed by the opposition -- which has denied the allegations.

The United States also denied involvement.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said Wednesday that 20 of the 29 accused were sentenced to the maximum of 30 years in prison, and the rest to 21 years.

The charges included terrorism, treason and trafficking in weapons of war.

"It begins to close a black episode" in Venezuelan history, Saab wrote on X, repeating claims that "foreign actors and powers" were involved in "this mercenary operation... that sought to murder officials at the highest level," including Maduro.

The Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy, an NGO, published the names of those sentenced, including Josnars Adolfo Baduel -- the son of a general who had turned on Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez and died in prison in 2021.

Baduel's sister Andreina said her sibling had been the victim of "torture" in detention and called his sentence "unjust."

"The judiciary has been hijacked" by the state, she told AFP, and said the sentence would be appealed, to international courts if possible.

According to Saab, some participants in the failed mission remain at large.

Last year, he accused ex-opposition leader Juan Guaido -- briefly recognized by the United States and other countries as Venezuela's legitimate president after Maduro's widely-questioned 2018 reelection -- of having financed the operation with US funds then under his control.

Two American former soldiers were sentenced in Venezuela to 20 years in prison, but later freed in a prisoner exchange.

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