17:26 GMT19 February 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The four activists arrested in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington on Thursday will remain in detention overnight and appear in US federal court on Friday morning, director of the advocacy group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Brian Becker said.

    "The US government violated the Vienna Convention this morning by arresting the Embassy Protection Collective," Becker said on Thursday. "The four individuals who have been arrested will be held overnight in jail and will appear in federal court tomorrow morning."

    Activists with the Embassy Protection Collective had been living inside the Venezuelan embassy since April 10 in order to prevent the United States and Venezuela's opposition from taking over the facility, following Washington's orders for the mission's diplomats to leave its premises.

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has praised the activists for their bravery, while accusing his US counterpart, President Donald Trump, of violating the rule of inviolability, which covers embassies worldwide.

    On Monday, US Secret Service agents broke into the embassy and ordered the activists to leave the embassy or face imprisonment and prosecution. Earlier on Thursday, US Secret Service and State Department police forced their way into the embassy and detained the four activists who had ignored the threats and remained there, both federal agencies confirmed.

    Becker said the activists are now facing an obscure charge called "interference with certain protective functions."

    "Interestingly, these four individuals have not been charged with trespassing. Instead they have been arrested on an obscure federal charge unrelated to trespassing," Becker noted. "The reason for this is that the State Department knows that it is on thin ice when it comes to international law. This charge allows the government to skirt around the issue of what entity has legal ownership over the embassy."

    Venezuelan Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Ron denounced the arrests, saying US law enforcement agents entered the embassy illegally.

    READ MORE: Guaido’s People Responsible for Damage Done to Venezuelan Embassy — US Activist

    A State Department spokesperson said the arrests were carried out at the request of opposition leader Juan Guaido's representative in the United States, Carlos Vecchio.

    But US authorities violated the Vienna Convention by entering the embassy to make the arrests, the lawyer of the four detained activists, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said.

    Verheyden-Hilliard explained that the UN-recognized Venezuelan government of President Nicholas Maduro never gave US authorities permission to enter the facility, meaning that their entry constitutes a breach of international law.

    Moreover, US government’s actions signal that any state that does not like the government of another state “can simply appoint someone else and announce that person as the head of a different country and then hand over a diplomatic mission," she said.

    Verheyden-Hilliard warned that the US move sends a signal that could endanger the country's own diplomatic missions abroad.

    The Venezuelan government has called Guaido a US puppet and has accused the United States of orchestrating a coup to effect a change of government in Venezuela and claim the country’s resources.

    The United States in March took control of three Venezuelan diplomatic facilities in the United States, including two military buildings that belong to Venezuela's Defence Ministry.


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