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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Venezuela mayor tried over siege
By Greg Morsbach
BBC News, Caracas

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez was forced from office for two days in 2002
An opposition politician has gone on trial in Venezuela, accused of involvement in a siege of the Cuban embassy during a failed coup in 2002.

The charges against Henrique Capriles date back to when President Hugo Chavez was briefly ousted from power.

Mr Capriles, an opposition mayor, denies the accusations, saying he did everything in his power to control an angry crowd of anti-Chavez protesters.

The judge heard opening arguments and ordered the trial to resume on 30 June.

The court hearing began with the prosecutor reading out six charges against Mr Capriles, accusing him of breaking international law by trespassing into the Cuban embassy compound and intimidating its staff.

Due to inadmissible evidence, the judge threw out three of the six charges which accused Mr Capriles of damaging the embassy building.

Mr Capriles called for the Cuban ambassador to testify as a witness.

The Cuban embassy is located inside Mr Capriles' municipality of Baruta, in the east of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

The allegations date from 12 April 2002, the day President Chavez was briefly removed from power in a coup.

A crowd of Venezuelans laid siege to the Cuban embassy, claiming that government ministers were hiding inside the building. The demonstrators cut off water and electricity supplies and damaged vehicles belonging to diplomatic staff.

Cuba's ambassador has told local media Mr Capriles should have used his authority as mayor but did nothing to protect his embassy.

The ambassador says the opposition mayor entered the premises to demand that the building be searched for any fugitive pro-Chavez officials. But Mr Capriles maintains he did everything he could to try to calm the angry protesters outside.

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