July 17, 2017 / 10:35 PM / 6 months ago

Venezuela prosecutors seek security officials who beat man with Asperger's

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office called on Monday for the detention of eight security personnel who savagely attacked a man with Asperger’s syndrome near an anti-government protest.

A video of the incident last week in the eastern coastal town of Lecheria showed National Guard members and policemen repeatedly punching, stamping and hitting 33-year-old Gianni Scovino with a baton, riot shield and helmet.

Eventually, they haul the staggering and dazed-looking man, whose condition is a mild form of autism, onto a motorbike in a car park and take him away, the viral video shows.

Opposition leaders condemned the incident as evidence of the brutality of President Nicolas Maduro’s security forces in repressing dissent and harming innocent people.

Government officials have acknowledged some excesses by the National Guard and police during anti-government unrest since April, in which some 100 people have been killed, but insist any transgressors face swift justice.

The state prosecutor’s office, however, which has become increasingly rebellious towards the Maduro government, expressed impatience in a statement saying it was still waiting for arrest orders against the eight men for “cruelty” to be implemented.

“The penal investigation was begun due to a video on social media from the morning of Friday, July 14, showing the victim, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, attacked by a group of policemen and soldiers,” it said.

Scovino was recovering in hospital, it added.

Maduro and his allies say critics exaggerate brutality by security forces while turning a blind eye to violence from opposition ranks, including burning people and setting off an explosion under a convoy of National Guard motorbikes.

Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Girish Gupta and Sandra Maler

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