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  • Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz

    Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz | Photo: EFE

The Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, declined to appear at the court hearing that could see her sanctioned.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has been holding an open preliminary hearing on the country's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, who is facing accusations of misconduct from a legislator.

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The hearing will determine whether or not to order a trial against Ortega for professional malpractice in her duties as the nation's lead prosecutor.

Supreme Court Judge Maikel Moreno already ordered the freezing of her assets and her bank account, as well as prohibiting her from leaving the country.

Venezuelan legislator Pedro Carreno accused Ortega of lying when she claimed “lack of legitimacy of origin” in the appointment of 33 judges in 2015. According to Ortega's petition to the Supreme Court to have the magistrates removed, she did not approve the appointments, rendering them void.

After her petition, Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab showed a record of the meeting where the judges were appointed that included the Attorney General's signature.

Just before Tuesday's hearing, Ortega went on Periscope to say she never signed such a record, and then she denied that she had ever been in such meeting.

Referring to accusations that she has been trying to block the call by President Nicolas Maduro of a Constituent Assembly to resolve the country's political crisis, Ortega said, "Yes, I've done it, and I will continue doing so".

But the Attorney General then refused to appear at the Supreme Court hearing to present her defence, calling the session "a circus".

After the hearing, the court has up to 30 days to deliver its ruling. If it decides to begin a trial, Ortega will be suspended from her position according to Article 380 of the Penal Code.

This could be the first time that the Supreme Court puts an Attorney General on trial.

The Supreme Court also named a new Deputy Attorney General on Tuesday morning. She is Katherine Harrington, who previously served as a vice minister for criminal investigations. The court annulled Ortega's own appointment of Rafael Gonzalez to the Deputy Attorney General post, on the grounds that it had not been approved by the Supreme Court.

Since the intensification of the right-wing opposition's attempts to oust President Maduro this year, Ortega has shifted from being a supporter of the Bolivarian government, and even being a target of Washington sanctions, to being a political actor praised by opposition forces.

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Socialist leaders have accused Ortega of acting with bias, saying she has refused to speak out forcefully against right-wing violence that has claimed at least 94 lives since they began in April.

Venezuela's Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, accused Ortega of allowing right-wing violence and sympathizing with those promoting acts to destabilize the country by overthrowing the Bolivarian government. El Aissami says Ortega has allowed crimes committed against the democratically-elected government of Maduro to go unpunished.

Ortega has on three occasions submitted formal petitions aimed at blocking the Constituent Assembly called for by President Maduro as a way of rewriting the constitution. They were all rejected by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court itself has been the target of several attacks, including the helicopter hijacking by police officer Oscar Lopez who dropped four grenades on the Court's building in Caracas.

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