During an arraignment hearing held in Miami federal court on Monday, the Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge. Through this politically motivated accusation, the U.S. seeks to punish him for helping the Venezuelan government counteract the impact of unilateral economic sanctions.
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"I will face the judicial process with full dignity. I did not commit any crime and won't cooperate with the U.S., which imposes a harsh economic blockade against Venezuela," Saab stated.
Saab is accused of allegedly "overvaluing contracts" of house construction in this Latin American country and allowing President Nicolas Maduro to “benefit" from the import of food through the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP), which is a public program that favors the most vulnerable citizens. For this accusation, the Bolivarian Government Especial Envoy was arrested in Cape Verde on June 12, 2020.
“Saab had papers proving he was carrying out a humanitarian mission. However, the Cape Verdean authorities hid these documents, denied him medical attention, and violated his fundamental rights,” Maduro denounced.
In Cape Verde, Saab never had access to a defense lawyer, was left without food or water for three days, and had his wrists cut and three of his teeth broken. In addition, the national mainstream media incessantly reproduced the U.S. speech, which alleged that Saab was a “henchman of the Maduro regime.”
Even though the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Justice Court ruled that his detention was illegal, Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court on Sept. 7 approved his extradition, which finally took place on Oct. 16. If convicted, Saab may face a 20-year prison sentence in the U.S.
“We will continue to fight to release Saab. We possess the legal basis to do so. Justice must prevail,” Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Felix Plasencia told Russia Today outlet.