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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 00:58 GMT
Paraguay man crucified in public
Tomas Velasquez on the cross in Asuncion
Mr Velazquez has been on hunger strike as well as crucified
Protesters in Paraguay have staged a public crucifixion calling for a jailed former army general to be set free.

Tomas Velazquez, a supporter of General Lino Oviedo, popular among Paraguay's indigenous people, was tied and nailed to a cross outside the Supreme Court.

Mr Velazquez called on the court to review Gen Oviedo's 10-year jail sentence for plotting a 1996 coup.

Gen Oviedo remains popular in parts of Paraguay, with supporters saying his sentence was politically motivated.

He was convicted by a military tribunal in 1998 of plotting to overthrow Paraguay's government.

He was arrested after returning to Paraguay in 2004 from exile in Brazil.

Nailed tight

In the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, dozens of Gen Oviedo's supporters gathered outside the Supreme Court for the dramatic crucifixion.

Oviedo was convicted by a military tribunal but that is illegal in times of peace
Tomas Velasquez

Draped in banners calling for Gen Oviedo to be set free, Mr Velazquez was hoisted onto a wooden cross and tied by the arms and legs.

Nails were then driven through the palms of his hands.

Grimacing with pain, Mr Velazquez - who is also undergoing a hunger strike - demanded that Gen Oviedo's sentence be reviewed.

"The Supreme Court must review this conviction. In 1998, Oviedo was convicted by a military tribunal but that is illegal in times of peace.

"We believe that he is being politically persecuted."

The Associated Press reported that the Supreme Court said it would review the case as a matter of course.

Coup country

Gen Oviedo initially rose to prominence in Paraguay in February 1989.

Tomas Velasquez on the cross in Asuncion
Banners left onlookers in little doubt over the cause
He played a prominent part in the uprising that overthrew the regime of Gen Alfredo Stroessner and set the country on the path back to civilian government.

Before being jailed, he had his political ambitions, first within the governing Colorado Party and then as head of his own Unace (National Union of Ethical Citizens) political movement.

But his jail term stems from a short-lived 1996 rebellion against former then-President Juan Carlos Wasmosy.

He is being held at a military prison, and continues to deny plotting against Mr Wasmosy, who was Paraguay's first elected civilian president after Gen Stroessner was ousted.

During five years of exile in Brazil, Gen Oviedo indicated he was considering running for the Paraguayan presidency in 2008.

Profile: Lino Oviedo
29 Jun 04 |  Americas
Oviedo held on return to Paraguay
29 Jun 04 |  Americas
Brazil blocks Oviedo extradition
17 Dec 01 |  Americas
Country profile: Paraguay
15 Aug 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Paraguay
06 Sep 03 |  Country profiles

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