Court slaps media gag on Chavez opponent

Venezuela’s highest court barred an outspoken opponent of President Hugo Chavez from talking to news media about criminal charges alleging he struck a police official. The Supreme Court’s order prohibits politician Wilmer Azuaje from “talking in relation to the present issue through any media outlet,” including television, radio, newspapers or the internet. It said the measure is meant to protect the “reputation, integrity and honour of the victim.” The court order comes as a chorus of Chavez critics and human rights groups are accusing the government of increasingly using the courts to punish its adversaries while ignoring other allegedly illegal acts by the socialist leader’s allies. Mr Chavez rejects such accusations. Mr Azuaje, a former supporter of the president, denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges against him are politically motivated for his criticism of Mr Chavez and his family.

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