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A violinist who has become a fixture in street demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been released from police custody after being detained for three weeks. Wuilly Arteaga, 23, was arrested on charges of instigating violence and carrying an incendiary device during an anti-government protest. He has been released following a request from the Public Ministry of Venezuela amid mounting pressure levelled by human rights groups and petitions calling for his freedom. A number of artists have been vocal about Arteaga's incarceration, including soprano Joyce DiDonato, who shared a petition to have him released via twitter.
Concrete action you can take right now, to help a musician in deep need: PLEASE SIGN. https://t.co/Rdy5vhvhQB— Joyce DiDonato (@JoyceDiDonato) August 15, 2017
Alfredo Romero, director of Foro Penal, a pro bono legal assistance NGO, confirmed the release on social media and has backed up claims that the violinist was beaten in custody. As part of his bail conditions, Arteaga must report to court officials every eight days and is prohibited from attending any more protests, Romero told reporters. Foro Penal has denounced these conditions and rejected his arrest charges, as well as an earlier order restricting Arteaga's legal representation to that provided by the state.
Arteaga has alleged that during his detention soldiers beat him on several occasions and used a lighter to set his hair on fire. He has also said that a video released by Maduro’s Socialist Party that showed him denying any mistreatment was manipulated through editing. The violinist was among 50 people arrested on the second day of a 48-hour strike to protest Maduro and his plans to elect an assembly made up of loyalists to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.
Many thanks to those of you who took the time to sign this petition. You will be happy to know that Wuilly Arteaga has been freed. https://t.co/YtbhJAMJag— Joyce DiDonato (@JoyceDiDonato) August 16, 2017
Arteaga shot to international prominence as a colourful symbol of the protest movement, and even more so following reports his violin was damaged by a member of the National Guard during a protest. He has become famous in Venezuela for playing the national anthem and traditional songs on his violin as a form of peaceful resistance.
Foro Penal says that since the rallies started, some 5,300 protesters have been arrested, with 1000 remaining in custody.