Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Thursday upheld the 14-year jail sentence of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014.
The court’s decision was released a day after U.S. President Donald Trump met with Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori at the White House. The right-wing Venezuelan "human rights activist" and the newly-inaugurated president allegedly discussed ways to ramp up pressure and sanctions on the South American country.
Shortly after meeting with Tintori, Trump tweeted his support for the opposition leader.
In February 2014, Lopez co-led a U.S.-backed campaign of violent protests, which sought to forcibly remove democratically-elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power. Campaign organizers worked alongside masked protesters known as “Guarimberos” who began barricading roads, burning tires, and attacking police.
Western human rights groups decried what they alleged was mass repression against “peaceful protesters.” On social media, photographs were released as evidence of widespread abuses with the hashtag “SOSVenezuela.” Many of the photos released, however, were from previous protests in Egypt, Ukraine, and Yemen.
The opposition’s campaign resulted in 43 deaths and hundreds of injuries — the vast majority of those killed and injured are reported to have been government police and Maduro supporters.
In 2015, Lopez was officially charged with association to commit a crime, public instigation, and connections to property damages involving fires and car tires.
Following his conviction, Tintori launched a smear campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution, claiming Venezuela is a “dictatorship” for locking up U.S.-backed criminals like Lopez. She was also involved in supporting right-wing groups intentionally hoarding food and goods in the country to damage its economy.
On Wednesday, Tintori went as far as thanking Trump for “standing with the Venezuelan people” on Twitter.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez quickly condemned Tintori's visit with Trump, calling it “an act of U.S. aggression and intervention.” She accused Trump of “supporting the head of the bloody and unconstitutional acts that happened in 2014 against the peace and stability of Venezuela."
A 2014 WikiLeaks cable revealed that the U.S. financed Lopez and the Venezuelan opposition for over 12 years, before the unsuccessful 2002 coup attempt against late President Hugo Chavez.