Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a press conference to launch the international trading of oil-backed cryptocurrency called Petro, on October 1, 2018. - AFP PHOTO - Federico PARRA
Agence France-Presse

Venezuela’s government said Monday an opposition member accused of taking part in a failed drone attack on President Nicolas Maduro killed himself while in custody, but the opposition claimed he had been murdered.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab told state television VTV Fernando Alban, who was in pretrial detention at the headquarters of the intelligence service, asked to go to the restroom and threw himself from a tenth-floor window.

Alban, a city council member from Caracas, was among at least 15 people arrested and charged for alleged participation in the August 4 incident involving two drones. Maduro was seen reacting on live television to an off-camera explosion while he addressed a military parade in Caracas.

A second explosion was heard and then the assembled troops were seen breaking formation and scattering in panic.

Maduro said the blasts were from explosives-laden drones sent to assassinate him, though opposition figures accuse Maduro of fabricating the incident to step up repression in his country which is suffering an economic crisis.

Opposition in exile

Alban had been arrested on Friday. His First Justice party blamed the government for his death.

“We hold Maduro and his regime of torture responsible,” it said in a statement.

Maduro has blamed the drone attack on First Justice founder Julio Borges, who now lives in exile in Colombia.

Borges said on Twitter the “cruelty of the dictatorship ended the life of Alban.”

The attorney general promised a thorough investigation.

The visiting US chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said on Twitter the government had a “responsibility to ensure all understand how that could have happened.”

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, also a First Justice member, said the Maduro government was responsible.

“Those of us who knew Fernando know that he could NEVER have acted against his life,” he said on Twitter.

The city councilman’s lawyer, Joel Garcia, told reporters it was too soon to confirm whether the case was a suicide.

Interior and Justice Minister General Nestor Reverol lamented the death of the politician who, he said, was “involved in destabilizing acts directed from abroad.”

Venezuela accuses its neighbor Colombia of shielding the authors of the alleged assassination attempt.

The United States in August condemned alleged arbitrary detentions and forced confessions by the Venezuelan government in its investigation of the drone incident.

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