The Organization of American States, the United Nations’ committee on human rights, the European Union and even a U.S. senator visiting Venezuela expressed concerns over the mysterious death of a Venezuelan opposition leader who the government claims jumped to his death from the 10th floor of the secret police headquarters in Caracas on Monday.
The announcement of Caracas councilman Fernando Albán’s death while in custody of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service sent opposition leaders and Venezuelans living abroad into an uproar, with many believing that he died while under torture and that President Nicolás Maduro’s secret police threw his body out of a 10th-floor window to stage a suicide.
Representatives of the international community also say they doubt the official version of events leading up to the death of Albán, a prominent leader in Caracas for opposition party Primero Justicia.
“It is the duty of the state to ensure the safety and physical integrity of all people in custody, so we now expect a thorough and independent investigation to clarify the circumstances of councilor Albán’s tragic death,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro was even blunter on Twitter: “We condemn Fernando Albán’s death, direct responsibility of a homicidal and torturing regime.”
Albán was arrested on Friday at Caracas’ International Airport, when he was attempting to board a plane to see his sons living in the United States, under charges that he was part of an August assassination attempt against Maduro involving two drones carrying explosives.
According to Maduro’s prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, Albán was being held at the police headquarters in Caracas when he “asked to go to the bathroom, and once there he jumped from an open window.”
But many Venezuelan dissidents, claiming torture is a standard practice by the secret police. known as SEBIN, claim the official version is not believable, given that new political prisoners are always under watch. Also, they say, Alban was a devout Catholic who would never consider taking his life.
Even U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who met Sunday and Monday with government and opposition leaders in Caracas in an attempt to jump-start a dialogue between the parties, said the death should be investigated.
“Today in Venezuela, Fernando Albán, a young opposition leader, died while in the government’s custody. This is disturbing and the government has a responsibility to ensure all understand how that could have happened,” he posted Monday night on Twitter.
Also asking for an independent investigation were the Office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and representatives of the Catholic Church in Venezuela.
Leaders of the Venezuelan community in South Florida also expressed outrage over Albán’s death.
“What happened to the Primero Justicia councilman is the product of the torture and the inhumane and degrading treatment imposed on political prisoners and the persecuted in Venezuela by the security apparatus of the regime,” said the Miami-based Organization of Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile, or Veppex, in a press release.