June 11, 2014 / 9:40 PM / 5 years ago

Venezuela seeks arrests after charges of assassination plot

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s chief state prosecutor said on Wednesday her office obtained warrants to arrest three hardline opposition activists for failing to appear to testify in an investigation into an alleged plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders last month accused opposition leaders of planning Maduro’s assassination to pave the way for a coup. The opposition dismissed the charges as laughably fabricated and based on forged documents.

Prosecutors are seeking the arrest of Diego Arria, an ardent critic of the government who ran in the 2012 opposition presidential primaries, and two other opposition activists for not appearing as ordered by a court summons.

The prosecutor’s office noted that the three are not officially charged with participating in the alleged assassination plan. Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who Socialist Party leaders accused of being the primary organizer of the alleged plot, has been called in to testify on June 16.

Machado helped spearhead three months of protests seeking Maduro’s resignation. The protest routinely turned violent.

Via Twitter, Machado scoffed at the Socialist Party’s accusations, calling them “infamy.”

Maduro, like his predecessor Hugo Chavez, has repeatedly denounced opposition plots to kill him or stage a coup. He says the protests, which have largely died down, were part of U.S.-backed plot to oust him.

The Socialist Party has frequently made high-profile accusations about opponents without providing strong evidence. Adversaries dismiss such campaigns as political stunts.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Girish Gupta; Editing by David Gregorio

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