Sat Jul 8, 2017 05:50PM
This file photo taken on February 18, 2014 shows Leopoldo Lopez (R), an ardent opponent of Venezuela's socialist government facing an arrest warrant at the time, being escorted by the National Guard after turning himself in, during a demonstration in Caracas on February 18, 2014. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on February 18, 2014 shows Leopoldo Lopez (R), an ardent opponent of Venezuela's socialist government facing an arrest warrant at the time, being escorted by the National Guard after turning himself in, during a demonstration in Caracas on February 18, 2014. (AFP photo)

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has decided to release a prominent opposition leader from jail just to put him under house arrest.

The court said on Saturday that Leopoldo Lopez was released after an order late Friday by the court president, Maikel Moreno. It said on its Twitter account that "health reasons" were considered for the move and that it was "a humanitarian measure in keeping with the law."

Lopez's Spanish lawyer Javier Cremades, who is based in Madrid, confirmed that the opposition leader was released at dawn local time. However, he regretted that Lopez was still unable to enjoy his rights as a free person.

"Leopoldo Lopez is at his home in Caracas with (wife) Lilian and his children ... He is not yet free but under house arrest ...," said the lawyer, adding that “all of Leopoldo Lopez's civil and political rights must still be restored.”

Members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) stand guard outside the house of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in Caracas after he was released from prison and placed under house arrest for health reasons, July 8, 2017. (AFP photo)

Lopez was jailed three and a half years ago over convictions including "inciting violence" by calling for anti-government protests. He has been the leader of the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party, a group which has fiercely opposed the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

His release from jail comes amid protests and clashes on the streets in Venezuela as the opposition and its followers want Maduro to step down and accept responsibility for the country’s deepening economic woes. Maduro has dismissed the calls while maintaining that the protests have been funded and supported from outside the country, mainly from the United States.

The call for the release of Lopez was a main demand in protests over the past weeks. Activists have also called for the release of more than 400 political prisoners. The government, which denies the figures, says those people are in jail for acts of violence.