The ‘6 of Citgo’ detained in Venezuela receive a judicial hearing to appeal their sentences

(CNN) – A Venezuelan court granted an appeal hearing for five US citizens and one permanent resident who were convicted of embezzlement in November 2020. The men were apprehended in Venezuela in 2017 and have been detained in the country ever since.

Attorney Jesús Loretto confirmed to CNN on Thursday that his clients, known as the ‘Citgo 6’, oil executives at the United States-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation, received an appeal hearing in Caracas on Tuesday, November 16.

The ‘6 of Citgo’ are José Ángel Pereira, Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, José Luis Zambrano, Alirio José Zambrano and Tomeu Vadell.

The executives were serving their prison terms under house arrest in Venezuela until very recently, but were taken back into custody on October 17 hours after the extradition to the United States of Alex Saab, a Colombian financier with close ties to the questioned president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Vadell’s family says that “after a mock trial” held behind closed doors, Vadell was “wrongly convicted” and sentenced to more than 8 years in jail.

The Citgo 6 are sent to house arrest 2:04

The family says Vadell has been “unjustly incarcerated in extremely harsh prison conditions” in what they describe as one of the “worst detention centers in the world.” They claim that the appeals process had been “completely suspended” by authorities for nearly a year, until the new hearing date was announced on Monday.

In their statement, the family suggests that the unexpected resumption of the appeal process is a response to the upcoming meeting of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD).

A UN human rights body charged with investigating arbitrary denials of liberty due to discussing the case of ‘The Citgo 6’ in Geneva as part of the 92nd working session on November 15.

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