by WorldTribune Staff, October 31, 2018
A student leader who was imprisoned for peaceful resistance to the socialist regime in Venezuela said he was brutally tortured and even witnessed other prisoners being crucified.
Lorent Saleh said he spent four years in prison without being convicted of a crime or having ever stood before a judge.
Saleh said the torture he endured was intended to get him to “confess” that the United States government, along with a variety of Venezuelan dissidents, had recruited him to overthrow the government, a claim he calls “delusional.”
Saleh, who was released from detention this month, was arrested in 2014 on charges of having brought Colombians into the country to protest the regime of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Speaking to Colombia’s NTN24, Saleh said he believed he would die in prison.
“I was prepared for everything except freedom,” he said. “I had assumed I would be in prison until either the government fell or they killed me … since I wasn’t a member of a political party, nobody was fighting for my freedom. It was horrible.”
The Venezuelan regime does not keep political prisoners separate from common criminals, who often complain they are treated worse than the dissidents.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Saleh noted that the torture centers in the underground Caracas prison known as “The Tomb” were significantly different than those at the Helicoide, the capital’s mall-turned-political-prison.
“I saw men on their knees so they could be beaten. And the worst – the most terrible and striking – I saw men not do anything before the suffering of other men,” he explained. “I have seen prisoners hanging for three days on a rail. Crucified. And other prisoners pass him by, as if nothing.”
“I have seen prisoners offer to abuse other prisoners, thinking that they would thus avoid being abused themselves, and of course that didn’t happen. They were abused too, and even more so,” Saleh said.
Unlike the Helicoide – which Saleh described as dingy and fueled by thug-like violence – the “Tomb” prison, he told El Mundo, was a sophisticated, high-tech “torture chamber.”
“It is five floors below ground level in a building in central Caracas, the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Agency. It is a laboratory created for the application of very particular tortures – a sophisticated, modern place,” Saleh explained, describing the infrastructure as foreign and “Ruso-Cuban, not Venezuelan.”
Saleh described a form of torture which involved “annulling, one by one, the prisoner’s every sense until he doesn’t know if he is alive or dead.” This form of torture involved darkness and absence of sound. “You know the only way to figure out [if you are alive]? Pain. That is why you want them to beat you and you beat yourself. Against the floor … against whatever, looking for blood.”