Reuters CARACAS (Reuters) — Venezuela’s defense ministry on Sunday confirmed the death of a military officer who opposition leaders and family members said was tortured in custody after his detention over alleged involvement in a coup plot against President Nicolas Maduro.
The death of navy Capt. Rafael Acosta came on the heels of a visit by United Nation’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to investigate rights violations ranging from extrajudicial killings to forced disappearances.
Maduro last week said military officers, with the support of opposition politicians and foreign political leaders, had plotted to overthrow his government.
Acosta was taken to a military tribunal on June 28, but he fainted before the hearing could begin, the defense ministry said in a brief statement on Sunday, leading the judge in the case to transfer him to a military hospital.
“Despite providing him with the appropriate medical attention, he died,” the statement said.
The U.S. State Department accused Maduro’s government of torturing Acosta to death.
“This is not the first time the Maduro regime has used violence against its political prisoners,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“The United States calls on the democracies of the world to join us in condemning this latest violation of human rights and in applying pressure to achieve accountability against the aggressors.”
Acosta was barely conscious in a court hearing on Friday after having been beaten and tortured, his wife, Waleska Perez, said in an interview with a Miami television station, based on information she said she received from Acosta’s defense counsel.
“They tortured him so much that they killed him,” Perez said in an interview with EVTV Miami from Colombia.
The information ministry and the state prosecutor’s office on Saturday night both issued statements about Acosta’s death, but neither described the cause of death.