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Venezuela: Former American soldiers jailed for failed coup

The Venezuelan military said it captured mercenaries after the failed coup

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The Venezuelan military said they captured mercenaries after the coup attempt

A Venezuelan court sentenced two former American soldiers to 20 years in prison for attempting to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.

Luke Denman and Airan Berry have been found guilty of conspiracy, illicit arms trafficking and terrorism.

The couple were among 1

3 people arrested in May while trying to enter Venezuela from Colombia by sea.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the trial against others accused of assisting the raid was ongoing.

In a tweet, Mr Saab shared pictures of vehicles, weapons and identification documents and said the American “mercenaries” had “admitted their responsibility for the facts”.

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US President Donald Trump, long an opponent of socialist President Maduro, has denied Venezuela’s allegations that he was behind the incident.

The US supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó and recognizes him as the country’s legitimate leader.

What is the background for this?

Denman (34) and Berry (41) are former soldiers of the special unit who were shown in a video on Venezuelan state television earlier this year.

In the video, Denman appears to admit his involvement in “Operation Gideon” – a conspiracy to either kill President Maduro or kidnap him and bring him to the United States.

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President Nicolás Maduro (left) said the act of Luke Denman and Airan Berry (right) was orchestrated by US President Donald Trump

He stated that he was hired to train Venezuelans in Colombia before returning to Caracas and taking control of an airport so Mr Maduro could be taken out of the country.

Denman said he and Berry were hired to conduct the operation by a Florida-based security firm, Silvercorp USA. The company is run by Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who has openly admitted being involved in the operation.

The Washington Post published a document containing a contract between Silvercorp and the Venezuelan opposition worth US $ 213 million (£ 170 million) to invade Venezuela and overthrow President Maduro.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó denied having anything to do with Mr Goudreau.

Relations between the US and Venezuela are strained. Mr Maduro has accused America of manipulating the political opposition to steal the country’s vast oil wealth. America and Mr. Guaidó have meanwhile blamed the president for Venezuela’s economic collapse.

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