Venezuelan prosecutor calls opposition leader's jailing a 'farce'

A supporter of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds paper reading' "Leopoldo Innocent" during a rally in Caracas on September 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra) (AFP/File)

Caracas (AFP) - A Venezuelan prosecutor says he has fled the country with his family, accusing the leftist government of using "false evidence" to convict jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Franklin Nieves made the accusations in a video posted Saturday on YouTube, in a blow to the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro just weeks before crucial December 6 legislative elections.

Nieves said he decided to leave the country "because of the pressure from the national executive and my superiors to continue to defend the false evidence that was used to convict citizen Lopez."

Lopez, the 44-year-old Harvard-educated leader of the Popular Will party, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on September 11 on charges of inciting anti-government protests in February 2014.

Protesters and government security forces clashed in the streets of major Venezuelan cities through June of last year, leaving a toll of 43 dead before they were finally suppressed.

Lopez's jailing and conviction in a closed-door trial -- in which defense lawyers said they were barred from calling witnesses and presenting evidence on their client's behalf -- drew international condemnation.

On Sunday, an umbrella group representing the country's opposition parties called for Lopez's release and that of 82 others it said were being held as "political prisoners."

"The admission on the part of the accusing prosecutor of the fraudulent character of the evidence presented totally vitiates the case the government has brought" against Lopez, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) said.

A hearing into Lopez's appeal has been scheduled for Tuesday. He has been held in a military prison outside Caracas since February 2014.

In the video, Nieves said he had been threatened with firing or jail if he did not do the government's bidding in the Lopez case.

"You will hear disqualifications and slander against me because I did not go along with continuing the farce that they staged," he said, adding that he had heard an investigation had been opened against him.

Nieves gave no information about his whereabouts, but said he would soon go public with more details about the government's handling of the case.