June 2 (UPI) — Venezuela’s Public Ministry said it launched an investigation after 37-year-old Caracas judge Nelson Antonio Moncada Gómez was shot dead and robbed.
The circumstances surrounding the killing of Moncada Gómez’s are under debate by the Venezuelan regime and the opposition. Some officials in President Nicolas Maduro‘s regime accused opposition protesters of carrying out the killing, while some in the opposition blamed “colectivos,” or “collectives” — a term used to describe civilian pro-government groups, some which have taken up arms against the political opposition.
“The incident occurred at nighttime on Wednesday … when the man was traveling on Avenida Páez de El Paraíso in Caracas and was intercepted by several people who were on a barricade; Moncada Gómez tried to flee, so he was shot and stripped of his belongings,” the Public Ministry said in a statement.
Moncada Gómez is best known for overseeing a 2014 case in which a young man was shot dead during a protest and for hearing jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López’s appeal, which Moncada Gómez and two other judges denied.
Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Gen. Nestor Reverol said that hired assassination “is not ruled out in the case of judge Nelson Moncada.”
“He handled various cases of violent doings of terrorist acts of the year 2014,” Reverol said in a statement. “Our call is and will continue to be peace! Do not fall into the call of a delinquent [political] right that does not want the good of our motherland.”
Venezuelan officials purportedly acquired footage of the incident filmed by local residents.
Jose Manuel Olivares, an opposition lawmaker representing Venezuela’s Vargas state, said Venezuelans “demand justice” after judge’s death.
“Judge Nelson Moncada was shot dead last night. We reject all acts of violence and crime,” Manuel Olivares said in a statement.
More than 60 people have died in more than two months of nearly daily protests in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government and the opposition accuse one another of being responsible for the chaos.
Though there have been some demonstrations in support of Maduro’s regime, most are anti-government demonstrations decrying the country’s economic collapse under Maduro’s government and what the opposition says is the deterioration of democracy and the violent repression of peaceful protesters at the hands of Venezuelan security forces.