Venezuela’s contested new assembly fired the country’s dissident attorney general, Luisa Ortega, on Saturday, and ordered she stand trial, in a move certain to provoke greater international criticism.
The body, which made the sacking its first order of business, also said it planned to operate as Venezuela’s supreme power for up to two years.
Troops surrounded the office of Ms Ortega on Saturday ahead of the move, as the newly installed constituent assembly began the session aimed at removing her from power.
Ms Ortega was suspended by the supreme court on Friday evening, hours after the assembly – derided by government critics as an illegitimate power grab – convened for the first time.
On Saturday morning she tweeted a photo of the soldiers outside her office, saying: “I reject this siege by the public ministry. I denounce before the national and international community this arbitrariness.”
She told reporters she was roughed up as she tried to enter her office, claiming that one officer hit her with his body shield. She left on a motor bike amid the chaos.
Later, in a statement, released by the public prosecutor’s office, she accused Mr Maduro’s government of leading a “coup against the constitution”.
She added: “I do not recognize the decision.”
Her dismissal was, she said, “just a tiny example of what’s coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of ruling.”
The constituent assembly replaced Ms Ortega with President Nicolas Maduro’s human rights ombudsman, Tarek Saab, a government ally who the opposition says has turned a blind eye to state abuses.
Ms Ortega, 59, has become a lightning rod for government fury after she turned against Mr Maduro, speaking out against what she saw as an erosion of democracy. On Thursday she filed legal proceedings to attempt to block the constituent assembly from convening.
On Friday, when her attempt failed, Delcy Rodriguez, the former foreign minister and Maduro confidant who heads the assembly, said they would prioritise punishing opponents.
“Don’t think we’re going to wait weeks, months or years,” she said, after she was voted unanimously by all the pro-government delegates who make up the assembly to lead.
“Tomorrow we start to act. The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming…