Clashes as Verdict Nears in Case of Venezuela Politician

September 10, 2015 Updated: September 10, 2015

CARACAS, Venezuela— Supporters of a high-profile jailed Venezuelan opposition leader clashed with government loyalists Thursday outside a Caracas courthouse in anticipation of an impending verdict.

Members of Leopoldo Lopez’s party arrived early in the morning to protest and pray, as they have dozens of times since Lopez’s imprisonment 19 months ago. Lopez is charged with inciting violence in his role as the leader of a protest movement in 2014, and could face more than 10 years in prison.

Around midday, red-shirted government supporters showed up and began chanting that Lopez was a murderer and a terrorist. Some burned the orange flag of Lopez’s political party and threw bottles and sticks at Lopez’s wife as she passed a barricade to enter the court.

A line of police in riot gear separated the two sides, but were unable to prevent direct confrontations. At least two women were hurt.

After the Lopez supporters dispersed, members of Venezuela’s ruling socialist party called for an all-day rally outside the courthouse.

He denies calling for violence, saying he only called for peaceful protests, and his supporters say pro-government forces were to blame for most of the clashes that broke out.

U.S. officials have made Lopez’s release a key demand for normalizing diplomatic relations.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Venezuela’s foreign minister Tuesday to speak about the case, and met with Lopez’s wife in Washington last week.