Aug 8, 2020 - World

Venezuelan court sentences 2 former Green Berets to 20 years in prison

Identification cards of people linked to the operation, including Airan Berry.
Identification cards of people linked to the operation, including Airan Berry. Photo: Miraflores Presidential Palace/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Venezuelan court on Friday sentenced two ex-U.S. special forces soldiers to 20 years in prison for their part in a failed operation to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, AP reports.

Why it matters: The case comes amid heightened tensions between Washington, D.C., and Caracas after the Trump administration last year publicly supported opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has vowed to oust Maduro through a military uprising.

  • Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both decorated former Green Berets, were found guilty of conspiracy, trafficking in illegal arms and terrorism.
  • Their lawyers said they were barred from judicial proceedings Friday night, adding the court violated their constitutional right to a defense.

What happened: “Operation Gideon” launched from Colombia in early May and left at least eight rebel soldiers dead while another 60 were jailed, per AP.

  • Another former Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau, took responsibility for the failed attack and said he hired Denman and Berry to prepare for the attack.
  • Venezuelan prosecutors have ordered Goudreau's arrest, though he is believed to be in the U.S.

American officials have denied a role in the raid, and have not said what knowledge they have about camps in Colombia that the group used to organize the operation.

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration would work to win Denman and Berry's freedom, according to AP.
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