August 16, 2017 / 3:08 AM / 2 years ago

Venezuelan protesting violinist released by authorities

FILE PHOTO - Venezuelan violinist Wuilly Arteaga (C) waves during a gathering against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - A young violin player who became a symbol of anti-government protests in Venezuela was released on Tuesday after three weeks in detention, according to the country’s chief prosecutor.

Wuilly Arteaga, 23, had become one of the best-known faces of protests against unpopular Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He would play 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 120 people dead.

However, the protests have fizzled as a controversial Constituent Assembly, which has been criticized globally as a sign that Venezuela is turning into a dictatorship, went ahead earlier this month.

Arteaga was released Tuesday, although under unspecified conditions, said newly-appointed chief prosecutor Tarek Saab on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Arteaga had simply been left in a Caracas square by National Guard, activist Alfredo Romero of the Penal Forum rights group said, adding that his group had been searching for the musician who had been detained during a protest on July 27.

Arteaga was beaten with his instrument by officials, leaving him hard of hearing, according to Romero.

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

The country is undergoing a major crisis, with millions suffering food and medicine shortages and soaring inflation.

Reporting by Girish Gupta; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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