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Conflicting reports surround death of Venezuelan opposition lawmaker in detention

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Conflicting reports surround death of Venezuelan opposition lawmaker in detention

Mourners react outside National Intelligence Service building in Caracas
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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A Venezuelan opposition lawmaker died in government custody on Monday, prompting conflicting reports from government officials and the opposition over what actually happened.

Fernando Alban, a municipal councillor for the opposition First Justice party, was arrested on Friday in connection with an incident in August where two drones exploded during a military parade at which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was present. By Monday, he was confirmed dead.

While government sources maintained that Alban took his own life, there were discrepancies in where exactly he was when the incident happened.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol tweeted that Alban had been in a waiting room at the National Intelligence Agency (SEBIN) in Caracas when he jumped out of a window and to his death.

But in a televised statement to Venezuelan media, Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab said Alban had gone to the bathroom in the SEBIN building, where he threw himself from the window.

While there were discrepancies in the story released by official sources, the opposition completely rejected any notion that Alban had taken his own life.

The First Justice party posted a statement to Facebook saying Alban "was killed by the regime of Nicolas Maduro..."

"We blame Nicolas Maduro and his torturer regime for what happened. We demand the truth of things and declare that this painful situation demonstrates the worst of the dictatorship: a system of death that penetrates the conscience of those who defend freedom in Venezuela."

Fernando Alban's son, who shares his father's name, posted this photo of his father to Facebook. "My father died fighting for democracy and the freedom of Venezuela," he wrote in the caption.

Mi papá murió luchando por la democracia y la libertad de Venezuela. #liberenaalban #RIPAlban #VenezuelaLibre

Publiée par Fernando Albán Photographer sur Lundi 8 octobre 2018

There has been huge reaction on social media to Alban's death. Venezuelan lawyer Mario G. Massone tweeted that he believed the government's version of suicide was irrelevant. The only doubt in his mind, he said, was whether Alban was pushed from the window alive, or if he was previously killed and his body thrown from the window to cover the evidence.

It wasn't just Venezuelans to react to the death - the international community also weighed in on the conversation.

Canadian politician Michael Levitt tweeted that he was "deeply disturbed" by the story, pointing out Maduro's human rights record and saying it demanded answers.