(Mérida, 09/13/2020).- Erickvaldo Márquez, a Physical Education student at the University of Los Andes (ULA), was arrested at his home on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 for an event that occurred five months earlier, on April 24, in the framework of social protests that took place in Mérida and other states of Venezuela. Márquez is accused of the death of Jesús Leonardo Sulbarán, an official of the Mérida State Government, who died that day during the «national sit-in» called by the opposition to the de facto regime led by Nicolás Maduro.
The Ulandino student is serving three years in prison today and is being held at the checkpoint located in the Glorias Patrias sector of the city of Mérida, together with common prisoners and in inhuman conditions, as has been confirmed by the legal team of the Observatory of Human Rights of the Universidad of Los Andes (ODH-ULA), whose lawyers defend the accused.
Lack of evidence and unjustified deferrals
On September 15, 2017, Erickvaldo was presented before the Court of Control of the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the state of Merida and was charged with the crime of homicide by the Fourth Prosecutor of the Public Ministry, without any evidence to determine guilt or involvement in the event of the accused.
«During the development of the preparatory phase, the defense managed to disprove the prosecution, by presenting a large number of witnesses to demonstrate that the university student was not present at the protest in which the government official died. The prosecution is presented in an extemporaneous manner, exceeding the period of 45 days established in art. 236 third part of the current Organic Code of Criminal Procedure», details the ODH-ULA in a statement issued today regarding the date.
After the accusation was presented by the Prosecutor’s Office, the criminal process has been unjustifiably delayed. The preliminary hearing was held 19 months after the accusation was filed, on August 21, 2018. The Organic Code of Criminal Procedure of Venezuela establishes as a rule that, once the accusation has been presented, a period of no less than 10 days nor more than 20 days must elapse to hold the preliminary hearing.
Trial hearings in this case have been postponed more than four times. Finally, the Trial Court had started the public debate on January 20 of this year, but it was interrupted due to the unjustified paralysis of justice in Venezuela that has existed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A group of students from the ULA, friends of Erickvaldo and lawyers from the ODH-ULA protested this Sunday, September 13, outside the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the state of Mérida, demanding with posters and banners the release of Márquez. Officials of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB, by its acronym in Spanish) interrupted the peaceful protest and demanded that those present leave the place, despite complying with the preventive measures against COVID-19.
The ODH-ULA and 52 human rights organizations that signed the aforementioned statement demand that Erickvaldo Marquez be tried in freedom, as established by national standards and the measures established by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report published on March 25, 2020.