Venezuela ends house arrest of Judge Maria Afiuni

Maria Lourdes Afiuni waves outside her home in Caracas (14 June 2013) Maria Lourdes Afiuni is banned from leaving the country or speaking to reporters

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The Venezuelan authorities have ended the house arrest of a judge held on corruption charges since 2009.

A lawyer for Maria Lourdes Afiuni said a court in Caracas rescinded the detention order on health grounds after a request from the attorney general.

The 50-year-old judge has reportedly been suffering kidney problems.

She has been on trial since November for corruption, abuse of authority and aiding an inmate's escape, but has dismissed proceedings as rigged.

Opposition leaders consider her to be Venezuela's highest-profile political prisoner, while human rights groups and international organisations have called her detention arbitrary and demanded her release.

Ms Afiuni was arrested on the day she authorised the conditional release of banker Eligio Cedeno who had spent almost three years in prison awaiting trial - a year longer than Venezuelan law generally permitted. Mr Cedeno later fled the country.

The day after the judge's arrest, President Hugo Chavez publicly called her a "bandit" who should be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

She was subsequently placed in pre-trial detention for more than a year in a prison, where her lawyer said she was the victim of sexual violence.

In February 2011, Ms Afiuni was granted house arrest in Caracas because of the serious medical conditions she was suffering.

To comply with the conditions of her release, she must report to the court in the capital every 15 days and is banned from leaving the country without permission or speaking to the media.

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