Venezuelan prosecutor fired after calling politician's case a 'farce'

Leopoldo Lopez is accused of instigating violence in anti-government protests that left 43 people dead in 2014 (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)

Caracas (AFP) - A Venezuelan prosecutor who called the conviction and imprisonment of a leading opposition leader a "farce" has been fired, the country's attorney general said Monday.

Franklin Nieves said in a video statement he had fled the country with his family rather than submit to government pressure to fight an appeal by Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed opposition leader.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega, in her first public comment since the video first surfaced at the weekend, said Nieves has been fired for "abandonment of his post."

"Of course he lost his right to a pension, regrettably," she added.

She rejected Nieves's accusation that the case against Lopez was "a farce" built on "false evidence."

Lopez, the 44-year-old Harvard-educated leader of the Popular Will party, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on September 10 on charges of inciting anti-government protests in February 2014.

His trial and imprisonment drew international condemnation, with rights groups criticizing the absence of due process and an independent judiciary.

Ortega said no further action was planned against Nieves, "unless we find some element that makes us presume some irregularity" in his duties as a prosecutor.

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.

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.