At least eight people have been jailed in Venezuela in the last 11 months for tweeting messages that the government of Nicolas Maduro found “offensive” or considered a threat for the country’s political instability.

The opposition calls it a modern-age witch hunt.

The charges range from conspiracy and instigating hatred to espionage and “causing anxiety” – all of them qualify for probation, defense lawyers say, but somehow their cases have stalled and five of the eight detainees are still behind bars.

Lessi Marcano (48), Ginette Hernández (23), Leonel Sánchez (47), Víctor Ugas (26), and Inés González (31) are locked up in El Helicoide, a Caracas prison guarded by intelligence personnel of the SEBIN (Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence).

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