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Opposition Venezuelan politician dies in jail

AP  |  Caracas 

A jailed in arrested on suspicion of involvement in a failed assassination attempt on has died of suicide, the government has said.

The official suicide claim on Monday drew swift denial from opposition leaders close to Fernando Alban, and a few dozen of his supporters gathered outside the intelligence service yelling "Maduro killer!" contending that he had been murdered.

While Venezuelans last year watched as dozens of youth were killed in violent street battles with security forces, the death of activists while in the government's custody is a fate more associated with the far deadlier dictatorships that dominated much of in the 1970s.

Alban, 56, was taken into custody Friday at upon arriving from New York, according to his He was in the U.S. accompanying other members of his for meetings with foreign dignitaries attending the General Assembly.

Julio Borges, who led the delegation to the U.N., said Alban's wife told him that her husband had been under intense pressure to testify against him in the ongoing probe into the alleged plot in early August to kill Maduro using two drones loaded with explosives.

More than two dozen people have been jailed on suspicion of involvement in the alleged plot, which Maduro claims was orchestrated by Borges with the support of and the U.S.

"There's no doubt this was an assassination," Borges said in a video from exile in neighboring "The only thing left for this government is torture, violence and destruction." ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Alban's death, which he classified as a suicide.

In brief comments on state TV he said Alban was in the waiting room of the intelligence police waiting to be transferred to a courthouse when he asked to use the bathroom. He then threw himself from the 10th floor of the building, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the outgoing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is in for meetings with Maduro and his opponents, called Alban's death while in the government's custody "disturbing." "The government has a responsibility to ensure all understand how that could have happened," he said in a message posted on

Also expressing concern was Luis Almagro, the of the and a of Venezuela's socialist government, who called Alban's death "the direct responsibility of a torturing and homicidal regime." "This criminal dictatorship should leave now," he tweeted.

As night fell on Caracas, and rumors swelled on that the government was planning to cremate the body to hide any signs of torture, family members gathered outside the morgue to demand Alban's body be handed over.

Borges, who said Alban was a personal friend, said the who represented a district in the area was a family man and devout Catholic who would never kill himself.

"Alban is a very Christian person, with deep spiritual convictions that go contrary to a decision to take one's life," said Joel Garcia, who has represented Alban.

He said he met with Alban the night before in the tribunal and his client had seemed calm. Garcia said authorities cannot determine that a death is a suicide without an investigation and he would ask to be present at the autopsy.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, October 09 2018. 09:10 IST