U.S. says Venezuela involved in opposition politician's death

An image of the opposition lawmaker Fernando Alban and Jesus Christ is seen over his coffin during a ceremony at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday condemned the death of an opposition politician in Venezuela and accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government of involvement in the death.

“The United States condemns the Maduro regime’s involvement in the death of Venezuelan opposition councilman Fernando Alban,” it said in a statement.

The statement also called for the release of all Venezuelan political prisoners and for Maduro’s government to “to re-establish democracy in Venezuela and to prevent further suffering and bloodshed,” adding that President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to increase pressure over the issue.

Authorities in Caracas have said the municipal politician killed himself by jumping out a window, while his Opposition First Justice party has said he was murdered.

Alban, 56, was jailed on Friday for alleged involvement in the explosion of two drones during an August military parade led by Maduro, according to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol. Venezuelan officials have given differing accounts of where he jumped, and on Tuesday the U.N. human rights office called for an independent investigation.

The White House on Wednesday noted that Alban died “while in the custody of Venezuela’s intelligence service.”

Maduro’s government has denied that it holds political prisoners and has said those who have been imprisoned sought to destabilize the government.

Reporting by Susan Heavey