Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela crisis: Attorney general refuses to attend court summons

Venezuelan Attorney-General Luisa Ortega Diaz attends a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, 04 July 2017. Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Tension has grown between Luisa Ortega Díaz (pictured) and Venezuela's president

Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz has refused to appear in court and is facing imminent suspension.

The Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, says Ms Ortega has committed serious errors.

But the country's chief prosecutor says she is being legally pursued for defying the president.

The charges filed against her come after she challenged President Nicolás Maduro over his reform plans.

Last week, the Supreme Court banned Ms Ortega from leaving the country and froze all her assets. Critics say the president is trying to push her out.

"We already know that today I will be removed from my post," she told a news conference at the public prosecution department on Tuesday.

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Once a staunch government ally, Ms Ortega broke ranks in March following what she said was an attempt by the court to strip the Congress - controlled by the opposition - of its powers.

Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Opposition figures said pro-government groups shot at and beat protesters in Caracas on Tuesday

Venezuela has faced three months of political turmoil with near daily anti-government protests. On Tuesday, a man was killed in a street protest in the western city of Táriba.

Reports indicate that the accusations against Ms Ortega refer to the appointment of judges.

Commenting on her decision to snub the court, the chief prosecutor said: "I am not going condone a circus that will stain our history with shame and pain and whose decision is foretold."

"I have committed no crime nor errors and I am not going to submit to this unconstitutional and illegitimate court," she continued.

Last week, Ms Ortega strongly criticised President Maduro after an incident in which a stolen police helicopter flew over the in Caracas, dropping grenades and firing shots.

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Media captionThe helicopter circles buildings before gunshots and a bang are heard

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The president called it a "terrorist attack" but the chief prosecutor said the country was suffering from "state terrorism".

While Venezuelan security forces later found the abandoned helicopter near the coast, opposition politician and parliamentary Speaker Julio Borges said there was a possibility that the incident was a hoax.

On Tuesday, the fugitive policeman who piloted the helicopter, Oscar Pérez, posted a video online saying he was still in Caracas.

He urged Venezuelans to stand firm in the streets in protests against President Maduro.

The government and opposition have accused each other of trying to stage a coup amid a wave of anti-government protests in which dozens have been killed.

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