On May 17th, the regime in Venezuela finally got Justice Afiuni into court for her much-delayed preliminary hearing. (For those who need a summary of the case before May, please check the post for March 29th, below).
The government lawyers immediately announced that there was no evidence of any payment made, or promise of payment to Justice Afiuni by anyone.
It was the general opinion among lawyers that this concession meant that Justice Afiuni would have to be freed, since without payments or promises of payment, where's the corruption?
But these lawyers were reckoning without the assigned judge, who has been assigned to many of the "political" cases, and who has no permanent position as a judge--she serves at the discretion of the President.
That judge, Leyvis Azuaje, held that the very fact that a prisoner was released by Justice Afiuni could well be a benefit to Judge Afiuni! So, she was committed to trial on all charges.
One informed observer, Ligia Bolívar, the director of the Centre for Human Rights of the Catholic University Andrés Bello said the decision showed that Venezuela is no longer functioning as a society of laws.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary also supported Justice Afiuni, stating in her report of June 3, 2010 that:
"Particular attention must go to grave violations of human rights. The Special Rapporteur expressed her grave concern about the case of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni and said she was awaiting the response of the Venezuelan Government. "