An Illegal Court Is in Charge of Juan Requesens Case

Every Venezuelan court must be made up by a judge, a secretary and a bailiff. One of the members of this tripod, as to the court in charge of the case of the Justice First party deputy, is usurping functions since he does not meet the requirements to hold the position. That automatically invalidates that instance. This is the most recent legal irregularity in this case, where not all officials sign their acts, lawyers do not know the file, and the Constitution has been openly violated.

1 November 2018

The name of Yasmily Alexandra Rojas Guzmán bashfully appeared in some Venezuelan news portals on the evening of Monday, October 29. Shortly before, the lawyers of deputy Juan Requesens ?86 days imprisoned in El Helicoide, the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin), accused of being responsible for the failed attack of August 4 against President Nicolás Maduro? revealed a key detail to the general public ?Rojas Guzmán, clerk of the trial against the deputy, is not a lawyer.

Article 510 of the Organic Code of Criminal Procedure of Venezuela provides that the individual holding that position must be a legal practitioner. Furthermore, the Venezuelan law establishes that a court is made up of a judge and a bailiff. Hence, the court in charge of Requesens’ case is not legally made up and is "invalid."

The notice that Rojas Guzmán is not a legal practitioner reached the ears of the defense of the deputy through the personnel of the Palace of Justice. Therefore, the first week of October, the Internal Policy Committee of the National Assembly asked the Lawyers' Social Security Institute (Inpreabogado) to clarify the issue. The answer arrived three weeks later to the hands of lawyer Joel García, counsel for the defense of Requesens and appointed by deputy Delsa Solórzano, as a letter. "(...) The abovementioned individual (Rojas Guzmán) is not registered, to date, as a lawyer of the Republic, to date, errors and omissions in the computer system excepted," reads the document endorsed by the president of Inpreabogado, Luis González Blanco.

"The Constitution provides that every act or individual usurping a function is null and void and in any act that entails that consequence, the individual incurs criminal liability under civil and administrative law. But not only the individual who serves as clerk incurs that irregularity, also the judge, as it is the judge who appointed the clerk," said lawyer García, before declaring that Requesens should not be deprived of his freedom for this and other irregularities.

No Signature, but History

Rojas Guzmán has a long career in the Venezuelan judiciary. According to information from the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS), since February 16, 1997, the almost 44-year-old woman is an active employee of the Executive Office of the Magistracy, the subsidiary body of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), the purpose of which is "to exercise, by delegation, the functions of running, management, administration, inspection, and oversight of the Judiciary."

A list of active members of the savings bank of the judiciary, of February of this year, confirms that she is employed by said body. She previously served as an assistant in other trials but, according to the defense, she never served as a clerk.

In social media, Rojas Guzmán described herself as "a prosperous and chosen daughter of God," "mother of two wonderful children," "100% Venezuelan," "a determined fighter" and "a winner." At least until 2013, she was not an active member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) or the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR). And, although she does not express her political preferences, at least publicly, as most Venezuelans, she criticizes the so-called "Maduro diet". Some of her close relatives are openly opponents in the social media.

However, the presence of Rojas Guzmán in this court is suspicious for the defense and others, who connect her with high officials of the Venezuelan Government.

"That person has not wanted to sign the acts that the court has developed. They want to put a person who is a lawyer instead, but we all know and the defense of the other defendants knows that the person who is actually there is not a lawyer," said García.

After being out of the country for a while, Judge Carol Padilla, head of the First Special Court of First Instance acting as Court of Proceedings, returned to the court, as the defense of Requesens stated on Monday. Regarding Padilla ?who, according to Poderopedia, in 2013, was part of the team of the Office of the Presidency of the National Assembly (AN)?, Borges says that she is the right hand of the president of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), Diosdado Cabello.

On the day of the hearing of Requesens, a man from outside the court attended an act that was supposed to be private. The defense learned later that the man was Padilla’s husband.

Flagrant Irregularities

On August 7, 2018, at 8:22 pm, Deputy Requesens was getting out of the elevator of his building in the Terrazas de Club Hípico neighborhood, southeast of Caracas, with his sister Rafaela, president of the Federation of University Centers of Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV). Rumors that the SEBIN was looking for him were louder at night, while Maduro spoke on a joint radio and television broadcast.

Witnesses say that about a dozen officials approached the Requesens Martinez siblings before they left the building. Some were wearing hoods, other not. Several were spotted by the security camera of the building. Only five officials sign the deputy's arrest warrant, even though all the participants in the operation were to sign it.

The defense of the deputy asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office proofs of technical coherence to determine if the video circulating on social media had been edited, in addition to anthropometric proofs to identify the participating officials and verify if their names agree with the few who signed the act. However, that was denied.

On August 8, at 11:50 am, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), Maikel Moreno, informed through his Twitter account that the TSJ had decreed the arrest of Requesens as "flagrant," and ordered to hold the deputy under the custody of the State security forces until the ruling Constituent Assembly resolved on the removal of the deputy's parliamentary immunity. This happened in a matter of hours.

"The flagrancy is concomitant with the fact, not after," explains lawyer Joel García, who has insisted that in the case of Deputy Requesens, for the eight crimes charged against him (continued public incitement, aggravated attempted homicide against President Maduro and against the military of the Bolivarian National Guard, use of explosive devices, criminal association, terrorist financing, property damage, and treason) one cannot speak of flagrante delicto. The failed attack occurred on August 4 and his arrest came three days later.

Yet, even if the official version on flagrancy were true, the team of Requesens’ lawyers said that another irregularity would be committed. Article 200 of the Constitution provides that if a member of the parliament commits a flagrant crime, the competent authority must hold him or her in custody in his/her home. But Requesens was transferred that night from his home to the Sebin headquarters in El Helicoide, where he has been for 86 days. However, he was missing for the first four hours.

The transfer to the court of proceedings, which the Constitution establishes that must be made within 48 hours after the arrest, took place seven days later.

The lawyers report that almost three months later after his arrest, they do not have the reasoned order "because the court has not issued it yet." And that is not the only thing they owe the lawyers. "To date, the defense does not have a printed accusation, we do not know what crimes were charged against him (...) We appealed in the dark," they say.

Within the 86 days from the arrest of the deputy, any of his lawyers has seen him, so they also claimed a violation of the right to a defense. His parents have only been able to see him five times within that period.

In a government broadcast nationwide on the night of that August 7, the day of the arrest of the deputy, when presenting the evidence of the failed attack, President Maduro showed a video with a testimony of who he claimed was the operating officer "of the assassins and hitmen" that tried to kill him three days ago.

It was the retired sergeant, Juan Carlos Monasterios Vanegas. "The first days of June (of 2018), I return (...) to Colombia but I had a problem with the documentation (...). When I arrived in San Cristóbal, I received a text message from deputy Juan Requesens, telling me that he was in charge of helping me go to the other side through Julio Borges (...) The instruction was to ask for Mauricio Jiménez, head of migration affairs of Colombia, when (...) I reached the Colombian authorities. I entered Colombia without any problem (...) and made arrangements there to get the drones in," he said in a video where he appears handcuffed and with his face blurred.

The case of deputy Juan Requesens has been different from other cases of Venezuelan political prisoners. "They raised the bar, very high," says García

"A person who is inside the Sebin, without his defense attorney, without a court and handcuffed is evidence that there is coercion (...) that proof is null and void," says lawyer García.

Three days later, the Minister of Communication and Information, Jorge Rodríguez, presented a video showing a weird Juan Requesens making what seems to be a confession that complements the version of Monasterios. "Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Julio Borges, who asked me to help Juan Monasterios to go from Venezuela to Colombia. I contacted him through messaging. I was in San Cristóbal and wrote to Mauricio Jiménez, Migration Supervisor. I made the request and they immediately contacted Juan Monasterios for him to enter from San Antonio to Cúcuta."

At the deferred hearing, finally held on August 13, the only day when he could speak with his lawyers, Requesens told them that he did not remember having recorded that incriminating video. García, like everyone who knows him, does not hesitate to assure that Requesens "was not in his sound mind".

Deputy Juan Requesens has been different from other cases of Venezuelan political prisoners. "They have raised the bar, very high," says García, referring to the multiple irregularities that would void this process.

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