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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 21:58 GMT
Venezuela jails opposition leader
Carlos Ortega. File photo
Carlos Ortega fled to Costa Rica after the strike
A Venezuelan court has sentenced one of the most prominent leaders of the opposition to 15 years in prison.

Carlos Ortega, who once led powerful trade unions, was found guilty of inciting civil unrest during a strike that began in late 2002.

The two-month strike paralysed Venezuela's vital oil industry.

Ortega said the verdict was politically motivated, and his lawyers immediately announced an appeal.

Ortega was arrested in the capital, Caracas, in March.

He was found in possession of identity papers with an assumed name, a police official said earlier.

Family members said Ortega secretly returned to Venezuela in last August after fleeing to Costa Rica in 2003.

The strike failed to oust President Hugo Chavez.

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