VENEZUELA / Detained November 26, 2014
UPDATE: Gilberto was released in December 2016 after two years of imprisonment. However, he is banned from leaving Venezuela and must appear before court once a month.
Gilberto Sojo is a Venezuelan legislator and activist. He is an elected representative to the Venezuelan National Assembly and a community leader for the political party Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”) in his hometown of San Agustin, Caracas, Venezuela. Prior to his arrest, he worked as a motorcycle deliveryman who organized social activities for retirees in San Agustin.
On November 26, 2014, Gilberto was arrested by officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). SEBIN officials accused him of plotting to blow up the Palace of Justice—Venezuela’s Supreme Court—in an effort to liberate Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo Lopez. They claimed that they had found C4 explosives on his motorcycle.
Gilberto was subsequently imprisoned in the Helicoide, a SEBIN detention center. There, he described being tied to a desk so that he “was hanging by [his] bound hands,” forced to stay in a crouch in a chamber called the “drawer” for 18 days, and beaten repeatedly. Gilberto referred to the Helicoide as “a torture center of this regime.”
In December 2015, Gilberto was elected to the National Assembly as the deputy to legislator Dinorah Figuera while still detained. This was possible due to a provision that allows elected lawmakers to the National Assembly to choose substitutes in the event of their incapacity. However, the Venezuelan government rejected an appeal by Voluntad Popular to release Gilberto under parliamentary immunity, which prevents elected lawmakers from being prosecuted.
On the dawn of December 13, 2016, Gilberto was unexpectedly released. He had spent more than two years in prison. That same day, he was sworn into the National Assembly and officially assumed his duties as deputy legislator. However, he is banned from leaving the country and is to appear before court once a month.