A student has spent three years in prison without evidence of a crime

Erickvaldo Marquez, a student of Physical Education at the Los Andes University, was arrested at his home in Merida on September 13, 2017, for a murder that took place five months earlier during a protest. His lawyers denounce delayed justice: no sentence, no trial, only a preliminary hearing, adding that there is zero evidence connecting Marquez to the crime.

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On September 13, students, friends, and lawyers from the Human Rights Observatory of the University of Los Andes protested in front of the Merida state criminal courts to demand the release of Erickvaldo Marquez. Photo courtesy by ODH-ULA.

By Maria Fernanda Rodriguez.

Erickvaldo Marquez, a student of Physical Education at the University of Los Andes (ULA), has spent three years in jail. The Public Prosecutor Office accused him of the death of Jesus Leonardo Sulbaran, an official of the Merida State Government, who died on April 24, 2017, during the national sit-in called by the opposition, a protest agenda registered in Venezuela that year.

The student is being held in a police checkpoint in the city of Merida, “together with common prisoners and in inhumane conditions,” according to the Human Rights Observatory of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA), whose lawyers are defending him. After three years, he has no sentence, no trial, and only one preliminary hearing after the arraignment.

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A group of students from the ULA, friends of Erickvaldo, and lawyers from the ODH-ULA protested this September 13, outside the criminal courts in Merida state, demanding with posters and banners the liberation of the detainee.

However, officials of the National Guard demanded they leave the place, even though they were with the measures of prevention and social distancing before the COVID-19.

Lack of evidence and unjustified deferrals

A statement published Sunday, and signed by 53 human rights organizations, stated that Marquez was introducing to the Control Court of the Criminal Judicial from Merida on September 15, 2017. That date, the Fourth Prosecutor of the Public Ministry charged him with the crime of homicide, “without evidence of guilt or involvement in the act of the accused,” says the ODH-ULA.

The process got delayed. The trial hearings for this case have been postponing four times. The preliminary hearing was held 19 months after the accusation, in August 2018.

“The Venezuelan Organic Criminal Procedural Code establishes as a rule that, once the accusation filed, a period of no less than ten days and no more than 20 days must elapse before the preliminary hearing held,” said the press release.

In January 2020, the Trial Court started the public debate on this case, but it was interrupted due to the national quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic. The ODH-ULA has denounced that the paralysis of justice in this period of confinement is illegal.

The ODH-ULA and the 52 organizations that signed the statement demand that the accused remains free during the trial phase, “as established the national standards and the measures by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in its report published on March 25, 2020.”

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