Protesters at Venezuela's U.S. Embassy appear in court to face criminal charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four protesters arrested on Thursday for occupying the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. appeared in federal court on Friday where they were charged with trespassing and interfering with the U.S. State Department’s protective functions, the Justice Department said.

Kevin Bruce Zeese, 64, Margaret Ann Flowers, 57, Adrienne Pine, 49, and David Vernon Paul, 70, were all released on various conditions, and are due to appear in court again on June 12.

Their appearance in court came one day after U.S. law enforcement officers raided the Venezuelan Embassy to oust a small group protesting U.S. foreign policy toward Venezuela.

The raid helped to pave the way for the diplomatic compound to be handed to the U.S. envoy of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Since mid-April, members of three activist groups have been occupying the embassy to oppose U.S. efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro in favor of Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president whom President Donald Trump also officially recognized as Venezuela’s leader in January 2019.

The Justice Department said the protesters at the embassy involved three groups: an activist group called Code Pink, the Embassy Protection Collective, and a third group known as Popular Resistance.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Thursday that the government of Guaido had asked for U.S. assistance in removing the protesters from the embassy.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Susan Thomas and James Dalgleish