A Basque separatist fighting extradition to Spain testified before Venezuelan prosecutors on Wednesday, a Venezuelan activist said.
Spanish authorities want to try Arturo Cubillas, who holds a government job in Venezuela, on accusations he helped the Basque militant group ETA arrange explosives training with Colombian rebels in Venezuela. Cubillas insists he is innocent.
Susana Gonzalez, who leads a Venezuelan group that supports Basque independence, said she spoke with Cubillas and he testified for two hours. Prosecutors did not immediately comment on the hearing, and Cubillas did not appear in public.
Dozens of demonstrators voiced support for Cubillas outside the attorney general's office, waving Basque flags and chanting: "No to extradition!"
The protesters included backers of President Hugo Chavez as well as Cubillas' friends and co-workers. Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with images of Argentine revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara and held signs condemning Spain's treatment of Basque separatists.
Augusto Pena, a co-worker of Cubillas in the government's National Lands Institute, called the charges lies and said: "His crime is working for Chavez's government."
Cubillas testified voluntarily after asking Venezuelan authorities last month to investigate, saying he has not had access to details of the accusations against him in Spain.
Cubillas told the Caracas-based television network Telesur in an interview posted Wednesday on its website that the charges against him are part of an anti-Chavez campaign.
"The objectives aren't Arturo Cubillas, nor are they Basques in Venezuela, it's Chavez," he was quoted as saying.
"I trust in the Venezuelan justice system," Cubillas added, saying he is confident he will not be turned over to Spanish authorities.
Friends and co-workers said Cubillas used to run a Basque restaurant. More recently, they said, he was involved in government takeovers of farmland as part of his job as a security chief for the National Lands Institute.
As for his politics, Cubillas told Telesur: "I continue to consider myself an activist of the Basque left and I don't have any reason to hide that."
"Being of the Basque left doesn't mean being part of ETA," he said.
A Spanish judge indicted Cubillas in March on accusations that he helped ETA arrange explosives training with Colombian rebels, among other things.
Spanish investigating judge Ismael Moreno said last month that two suspected Basque militants who were recently arrested in Spain allegedly took part in a weapons training course in Venezuela in 2008 and that Cubillas was an instructor during the course.
Cubillas has vehemently denied it. He told Telesur that he questions whether the two Basque prisoners actually made such statements and "whether they were obtained through torture."
Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega said recently that Cubillas was called to testify "as a witness" to clear up facts in the case. Ortega has said that while Cubillas' case will be investigated, extradition would not be appropriate because he holds Venezuelan citizenship.
Cubillas has lived in Venezuela since 1989. He was one in a group of about 30 Basques admitted to the country as refugees in the 1980s and early 1990s under an agreement between the governments of Spain and Venezuela.
Another Spanish judge, Pablo Ruz, had sought to reopen another old case against Cubillas but on Wednesday changed course and put aside the 1985 murder case, agreeing with prosecutors that the 20-year statute of limitations had expired.
Amilcar Figueroa, a prominent Chavez supporter, joined the demonstration saying he has known and respected Cubillas for many years.
"Now he's a victim of a lie by the police" in Spain, Figueroa said.
Associated Press reporters Jorge Rueda in Caracas and Jorge Sainz in Madrid contributed to this article.