Venezuela’s Attorney General has claimed that the two former U.S. soldiers arrested on Monday for their role in a failed bid to topple President Nicolas Maduro are being treated well in custody as the Americans made their first court appearance.
‘It should be remembered how the prisoners at the Guantánamo base, kidnapped by the US Army, were treated: without trial or legal representation for years,’ Tarek William Saab Saab said in a press conference Friday as he announced that the Americans had been charged with terrorism and conspiracy.
Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, were seen in video of their court appearance Friday wearing orange jumpsuits and face masks to protect against coronavirus as Maduro’s presidential translator told them they were accused of ‘crimes against democratic order and sovereignty of the Venezuelan state’.
Venezuelan Attorney General said they could face between 25 and 30 years in prison if found guilty on charges of ‘terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and (criminal) association’.
He reiterated claims that the U.S. government was involved, adding that the Venezuelans arrested, who also appeared in court Friday, would be tried for ‘conspiracy with a foreign government’.
Former U.S. soldiers Luke Denman (left) and Airan Berry (right) are pictured in their first court appearance Friday for their alleged role in the failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. They were charged with ‘crimes against democratic order and sovereignty of the Venezuelan state’ and face up to 25-30 years in prison if found guilty
Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34, were arrested on Monday for allegedly taking part in a failed coup of Venezuela. They faced their first court appearance on Friday
RUSSIAN TROOPS USING DRONES TO TRACK DOWN MEMBERS OF FAILED VENEZUELAN COUP
Russian soldiers are operating drones over Venezuela as part of a search operation for members of a paramilitary force that led a botched invasion this week, according to Reuters.
Local media first reported the story on Friday, citing deleted tweets from a state military command center.
At least eight Russian special forces members will be ‘operating drones to run search and patrol operations’ near La Guaira, the coastal state just north of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, according to a report from local news outlet El Nacional.
It posted a screenshot of a tweet it said was later deleted on Thursday from the profile of the military command, known as ZODI La Guaira.
An aircraft arrived at the country’s international airport on Thursday that would join the search mission, ZODI La Guaira wrote in a separate tweet, posting a photo of a helicopter.
El Nacional said that tweet was also later deleted.
The aircraft’s origin and why the tweets were deleted was not immediately evident.
The information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for clarification, Reuters said.
They later tweeted that there was no interference of the Russian military in Venezuela.
‘We demand an end to the aggressions from Colombia and the United States, that they stop being a den of murderers and corrupt Venezuelans and that they hand them over to the Venezuelan justice so that they can be prosecuted for the crimes committed,’ Saab said.
It came as he also ordered the arrest of a former US soldier and two opposition figures living in the US for their alleged role in a botched operation aimed at removing Nicolas Maduro from power.
Saab said Venezuela had requested arrest warrants – as well as inclusion in the Interpol system – for the capture of former US army medic Jordan Goudreau, who allegedly organized and trained the mercenary force.
US law enforcement is investigating Goudreau, though it remains unclear if he will charged.
Arrest warrants were also requested for Juan Jose Rendon and Sergio Vergara, two US-based advisers to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
‘They are living in impunity,’ Saab said. ‘In tranquility over there.’
He also attempted to highlight that the American’s human rights were being respected while being detained. He mentioned a CNN interview from Luke Denman’s brother Mark in which he said, ‘I am happy to see that he is being treated humanely and that, apparently, the standards established by international organizations are being followed’.
Detainee Airan Berry had been questioned about how he had been treated since his arrest during an edited interrogation broadcast on Venezuelan state TV on Thursday.
When asked about whether his human rights had been respected, Berry replied ‘Yes, as far as I’ve experienced, yes.’
The former Green Beret appears to quickly look up as he speaks, however, a tactic a former Navy Seal said is used by special forces to transfer a secret message that they are speaking under duress.
Venezuelan Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López announced Friday that two more individuals who allegedly participated in a failed plot were arrested as news emerged that Russian soldiers are operating drones over Venezuela as part of a search operation, Reuters reported.
Local media reported on Friday, citing deleted tweets from a state military command center, that at least eight Russian special forces members will be ‘operating drones to run search and patrol operations’ near La Guaira, the coastal state just north of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.
Announcing the arrests Friday, Saab said that opposition leader Guaido was behind the mission. Guiadó has beeen backed in his challenge to Maduro’s authority by the US and more than 50 other countries.
Saab accused Guaido of signing a $212 million contract with ‘hired mercenaries’ using funds seized by the US from the state oil company PDVSA.
Rendon, an advisor to Guaido, said in an interview with CNN that he had signed a contract with Silvercorp USA, a private security firm founded by Goudreau.
The Iraq and Afghanistan veteran admitted the existence of the operation in a video and claimed Silvercorp was contracted by Venezuela’s opposition.
In the video, Goudreau showed what he claimed was a contract signed by Guaido, whose press team denied the allegation.
He also told The Washington Post that he hired Denman and Berry as ‘supervisors’ and had known them for years.
Rendon told CNN the contract was ‘exploratory’ and that no green light was given to an operation in Venezuela. He also denied Guaido was involved.
Venezuela has issued an arrest warrant for former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau (pictured center) who claimed responsibility for a failed operation to overthrow President Maduro
In a video sent to the press by his team on Friday night, Guaido accused the Maduro government of seeking ‘new excuses’ to stop him.
‘I tell you something very clear, Maduro: If you are so brave, go ahead,’ he said.
Despite the Venezuela regime’s accusations against Guaido, he has not been charged with anything.
Denman and Berry were among 17 people captured by the Venezuelan military, which said it had thwarted an attempted invasion by mercenaries in the early hours of Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US government would ‘use every tool that we have available to try to get them back.’
Eight attackers were reportedly killed in the incident.
Maduro has accused President Donald Trump of being behind the alleged invasion but Trump has roundly rejected the accusation, telling Fox News on Friday: ‘If I wanted to go into Venezuela I wouldn’t make a secret about it.
‘I’d go in and they would do nothing about it. They would roll over. I wouldn’t send a small little group. No, no, no. It would be called an army,’ he said. ‘It would be called an invasion.’