Maduro calls for national debate over controversial amnesty law

(Xinhua)      Updated : 2016-03-31

CARACAS - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday called for a national debate over an amnesty law approved by the Congress that gives amnesty to activists who the opposition considers as political prisoners.

"They approved a law, which has never been approved in the country before. They call it amnesty but it is the most criminal law ever approved in Venezuela," he said.

Venezuela's opposition-controlled Congress late on Tuesday approved an amnesty law to free jailed opposition activists and ended legal proceedings against others, which will be sent to Maduro for his approval or veto.

Maduro has made it clear that he will reject the law and ask the Supreme Court to rule on whether it is constitutional.

He said the law had no judicial value and existed to persecute the government and its loyal citizens.

Maduro also denied opposition accusations that his administration holds political prisoners, insisting they are simply "imprisoned politicians."

The Maduro government has earlier contended that those people were jailed for inciting riots, which left at least 44 people dead in 2014.

The law existed only to free "those who attacked our population during violent riots in 2014," the president said.

Maduro also doubted whether the right-wing group in the Congress was interested in national reconciliation, since they were "turning their back on the country."

If the law is declared constitutional, the Congress can overrule Maduro's veto with a two-thirds vote.