July 29, 2017 / 1:11 AM / 3 years ago

Venezuelan protesting violinist arrested, beaten: rights group

CARACAS (Reuters) - A violinist who was arrested during anti-government unrest this week was beaten with his instrument by officials, leaving him hard of hearing, according to a rights campaigner.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan violinist Wuilly Arteaga plays the violin next to a pile of sand used by protesters to block the street during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Wuilly Arteaga, 23, had become one of the best-known faces of protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, playing the National Anthem as tear gas enveloped him and rubber bullets flew around him.

Anti-government protests have rocked Venezuela for four months, leaving more than 110 people dead.

Arteaga was detained during a protest on Thursday, said Alfredo Romero, head of the Penal Forum rights group, in a Periscope video filmed while driving. Arteaga has become emblematic for government critics of security forces’ tough tactics against protesters in recent months.

“They burned his hair with a lighter, beat him very hard meaning that he can’t hear through his right ear,” Romero said.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The young violinist was severely injured last week while playing during protests. Paramedics attended Arteaga on Saturday as blood poured down his face.

He later tweeted a video from hospital with a bandaged face and clutching his violin.

“Neither rubber bullets nor pellets will stop our fight for Venezuela’s independence,” Arteaga said in the video. “Tomorrow I will be back in the streets.”

More than 4,800 people have been arrested during four months of anti-government unrest, according to Romero, with more than 1,300 still detained.

Reporting by Girish Gupta and Corina Pons; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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