A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former Green Berets to 20 years in prison for their roles in a failed beach attack aimed at overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro, the country's attorney general announced Friday.
The two former U.S. Special Forces — Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry,42 — admitted to “to having committed crimes of conspiracy, association, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and terrorism,” Venezuela’s top prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, announced on Twitter on Friday.
“THEY ADMITTED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACTS,” Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, wrote in a Twitter post. No further details were shared by the Venezuelan government.
1) #AHORA lista la 1era audiencia preliminar CASO GEDEÓN ( mercenarios d Silvercorp ) los ciudadanos Luke Denman y Airan Berry fueron acusados por Fiscales d la causa por graves #delitos .. #HOY LUEGO D ANTERIOR AUDIENCIA D DELACIÓN: ADMITIERON SU RESPONSABILIDAD EN LOS HECHOS pic.twitter.com/ntbpqY7Nz9— Tarek William Saab (@TarekWiliamSaab) August 8, 2020
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The men's sentencing come amid hostility between Washington and Caracas. Last year the Trump administration threw its support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“Operation Gideon” was an attempted capture of Maduro, the country's socialist president for whom the U.S. Department of Justice is offering $15 million. The operation was foiled by Venezuelan and Cuban security forces.
Denman and Berry were reportedly involved in training dozens of Venezuelan military defectors in rudimentary camps in Colombia, who at the time of their arrest were carrying U.S. passports and identification cards from Silvercorp, a Florida-based private security company owned by Jordan Goudreau, another Green Beret.
A top Gaido advisor resigned in May over his reported involvement in the attempted coup after media reports alleged he paid at least $50,000 to Silvercorp.
According to the Washington Post, Denman said he was expecting a payment of $50,000 to $100,000 for training the soldiers and believed that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE was backing the mission. The U.S. government has denied being involved with the mission.
The Venezuelan government released a video where Berry appears to confirm Denman’s account. Denman’s relatives have said that Goudreau tricked the two men into thinking the operation was approved by the U.S., according to the Post.