Against family wishes, Venezuela government buries navy captain who died in captivity

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday buried the remains of a navy captain who died in military custody last month, despite the opposition of family members who say he was tortured to death and want an independent autopsy.

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Rafael Acosta was detained in June 21 for alleged participation in a coup plot but died following a week in custody of military intelligence agency DGCIM. Lawyers said he showed signs of severe beatings.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the death but did not comment on the torture accusations.

“What can be interpreted is that government authorities are (saying) ‘I killed him, I bury him,’” said Alonso Medina, a lawyer representing Acosta’s family.

The information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Acosta’s wife, Waleswka Perez, had demanded that the government hand over his body and called for an U.N. investigation into his death, which was condemned by the United States as well as the Lima Group of Latin American nations.

An official autopsy showed that Acosta died of “polytrauma with a blunt object,” Medina said.

Critics accuse Maduro’s administration of arbitrary detentions and the systematic use of torture against dissidents and military officers and of hiding such practices by impeding full investigations of institutions and top officials.

Maduro’s government insists it investigates human rights abuses and sanctions those responsible for them.

Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab said two officials working for military intelligence agency DGCIM had been charged with homicide in Acosta’s death, without explaining how Acosta was killed.

A defense ministry statement at the time said Acosta fainted at the start of the tribunal hearing and was transferred to a military hospital, without offering any further details.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera; Editing by Alistair Bell