On September 17, 2014, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro publicly accused Ángel Sarmiento, the President of the Medical College of Aragua State, of terrorism and has ordered that he be prosecuted. The accusations follow Dr. Sarmiento’s public announcement about a cluster of nine sudden deaths in the city of Maracay, which doctors have now attributed to Chikungunya, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. President Maduro has said that he has spoken to the Attorney General of Venezuela about the charges. Dr. Sarmiento has reportedly fled the country.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation for nonviolent, expressive activity related to his professional expertise and protected by internationally recognized human rights standards. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with scholars’ expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.