May 7, 2019 / 8:12 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuelan court asks pro-gov't assembly to allow prosecution of opposition lawmakers

(Adds background, paragraphs 3-8)

CARACAS, May 7 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had asked the country’s Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislative superbody, to determine whether to open criminal proceedings against seven opposition lawmakers including Henry Ramos, a former National Assembly president.

In a statement on Facebook, the court said the assembly would determine if proceedings could be opened to investigate crimes including conspiracy, treason, and rebellion. It did not specify which actions the lawmakers had taken that could be considered criminal.

In April, following a similar request from the Supreme Court, the Constituent Assembly approved a measure allowing for a future trial of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The Constituent Assembly’s decree is necessary for the Supreme Court to move ahead with a trial of Guaido and the other lawmakers because they have parliamentary immunity that makes it more difficult for them to be tried than average citizens.

Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume the interim presidency after declaring President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud.

The United States and most other Western nations have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. He has said he does not recognize decisions emanating from the Maduro government, including the constituent assembly, which is controlled by the ruling Socialist Party.

On April 30, Guaido tried to spark a military uprising to oust Maduro, but there were no widespread defections among soldiers and the plan fizzled out. Maduro denounced it as a coup attempt.

Ramos, speaking earlier at the National Assembly, said: “Whatever action the prosecutor’s office imposes is null and void because there is no prosecutor’s office.” (Reporting by Angus Berwick and Luc Cohen; editing by Luc Cohen and David Gregorio)

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