Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sharply criticized the Venezuelan government Wednesday, blaming government officials for the mysterious death of opposition leader Fernando Albán and calling on President Nicolas Maduro to release all the nation’s political prisoners. “The United States condemns the Maduro regime’s involvement in the death of Venezuelan opposition councilman Fernando Albán,” Sanders said. “Venezuelan authorities took Albán into custody on October 5, upon his return from the United Nations General Assembly, where he spoke to the world about the importance of returning democracy to the people of Venezuela. He died three days later while in the custody of Venezuela’s intelligence service.”
Venezuela vehemently denies murdering Albán, a local councilman who had accused the Maduro regime of economic failure and human-rights violations, instead claiming that he threw himself out of the 10th floor window of secret-police headquarters. Sanders also demanded “the immediate release of all Venezuelan political prisoners, and for the Maduro regime to take direct, credible steps to reestablish democracy in Venezuela and to prevent further suffering and bloodshed.” Meanwhile, the White House has not yet issued a statement on the similarly mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials believe was likely murdered and dismembered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.