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High-profile Venezuelan prisoner ends hunger strike

Source: Reuters - Sun, 1 Jun 2014 22:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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CARACAS, June 1 (Reuters) - An imprisoned former Caracas police commissioner at the center of stalled political talks between Venezuela's government and opposition ended a hunger strike on Sunday after demands for his release due to frail health were rejected.

Ivan Simonovis, 54, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars after being convicted of participating in the assassination of four protesters during a march that triggered a brief coup against the late President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

His hunger strike, launched on Tuesday, failed to legally advance the cause of his liberation and went against the will of his family. "I don't want a dead hero, I want a living husband," his wife Bony Pertinez told local media. She confirmed to Reuters that Simonovis had started eating again.

"I will let honest Venezuelans continue to fight for my freedom," Simonovis tweeted.

Freedom for Simonovis has become a rallying cry for the opposition, which has expressed outrage at his imprisonment in a small cell and says his osteoporosis requires urgent medical attention.

The government has countered that a public prosecutor who recently visited Simonovis found him to be "in good health."

For government supporters, Simonovis is a dangerous and violent saboteur who played a role in illegally unseating a democratically elected president. He was sentenced in 2009 after lengthy proceedings. Several other officers were convicted.

The issue was a factor in last month's collapse of negotiations between the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro's government. The talks had been aimed at ending street protests that had been raging since February. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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