Guaido stripped of immunity by Venezuelan legislators

Tuesday's move paves way for opposition leader to be prosecuted and arrested

Photo: EPA Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaido

Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Nicolas Maduro stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido of immunity Tuesday - and authorised the high court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the crisis-hit country's ruler.

"[Guaido's prosecution] is officially authorised," Diosdado Cabello, head of the Constituent Assembly said following an assembly vote on Tuesday.

But whether President Nicolas Maduro's government will take action against the 35-year-old legislators remains unclear.

Guaido declared himself Venezuela's interim president in January, has embarked on an international campaign to topple Maduro's administration amid deepening social unrest in the country plagued by nearly a month of power outages. So far, however, Maduro has avoided jailing the man that the administration of US President Donald Trump and roughly 50 other nations recognise as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

The Constituent Assembly met a day after Maduro ally and Venezuela Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno ordered the legislative body to strip Guaido's immunity for violating an order banning him leaving the country while under investigation by the attorney general. The opposition leader is also accused of inciting violence linked to street protests and receiving illicit funds from abroad.

The Constitution guarantees immunity for elected officials and says that in order to withdraw immunity the accused legislator must be given a preliminary hearing before the Supreme Court. The action must be approved by the National Assembly - steps that weren't taken in Guaido's case.

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