Venezuela court orders start to trial of U.S. citizen held on terrorism charges

by Reuters
Thursday, 25 February 2021 20:10 GMT

CARACAS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A Venezuelan criminal court in a Wednesday hearing ordered that a trial begin for Matthew Heath, a U.S. citizen detained in the South American country on terrorism charges and accused of being a U.S. spy, Heath's lawyer said on Thursday.

Heath, 39, was detained in September 2020 in northwestern Venezuela and charged with terrorism and arms trafficking. His defense attorney, Guillermo Heredia, said he rejected the "false" charges in the Wednesday hearing, which lasted until midnight.

President Nicolas Maduro at the time of Heath's arrest said he was spying on the OPEC nation's oil refineries, and that he had been carrying "specialized weapons." U.S. officials at the time said Heath was not sent to Venezuela by Washington.

No further court date had been set, Heredia said, adding that Heath was being held in the headquarters of Venezuela's military counterintelligence directorate, known as DGCIM. (Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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