February 19th, 2014
09:50 AM ET

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Lopez Due to Appear in Court After Surrendering

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is set to appear in court Wednesday, a day after he turned himself in to authorities amid anti-government demonstrations in the country.

Charges against him include murder, terrorism and arson in connection with the protests, according to his party, Popular Will.

Lopez denies the accusations, the party said in a statement calling for witnesses of the protests to send their own accounts of what happened to be used in his defense.

"The last thing he said to me was for me to not forget what he is going through," his wife, Lilian Tintori de Lopez said in an interview with CNN en Español. "Not forget that he is arrested for things that he has asked for: the liberation of political prisoners, liberation of students, no more oppression, no more violence."

She called on his supporters to join her at the justice building for his appearance Wednesday morning.

Venezuelan protesters are demanding better security, an end to scarcities and protected freedom of speech.

President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters have also rallied, blaming the opposition for causing the very problems it protests.

Clashes during days of demonstrations have already left three anti-government protesters and one government supporter dead. And the simmering tensions show no signs of letting up.

The confrontation took a turn Tuesday, when Lopez, accused by the government over the recent violence, marched with a crowd of thousands of protesters before surrendering to national guard troops.

"The options I had were leave the country, and I will never leave Venezuela!" Lopez told the massive crowd. "The other option was to remain in hiding, but that option could have left doubt among some, including some who are here, and we don't have anything to hide."

Hours later at a rally with throngs of supporters, Maduro said the head of Venezuela's National Assembly had helped negotiate Lopez's surrender and was taking him to a prison outside Caracas.

Maduro described opposition leaders as right-wing fascists who plant seeds of fear and violence. He claimed they have U.S. backing and repeatedly tried to assassinate him and overthrow his democratically elected government.

And he compared the opposition to an illness plaguing the South American country.

"The only way to fight fascism in a society is like when you have a very bad infection ... you need to take penicillin, or rather the strongest antibiotic, and undergo treatment," he said. "Fascism is an infection in Venezuela and in the world. And the only treatment that exists is justice."

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