Venezuelan prosecutors dropped the most serious charges against opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, whom the country's government blames for inciting clashes that have left at least five people dead.
Lopez, one of the leading opposition figures in Venezuela, was formally charged with arson and conspiracy, but murder and terrorism charges were dropped, said his attorney, Juan Carlos Gutierrez.
If convicted, Lopez could face up to 10 years in prison.
Lopez's legal team welcomed the reduced charges, though it criticized the way the judicial process was being carried out.
Wednesday night's hearing, to charge Lopez and determine whether he would be released or remain behind bars, took place in an unusual spot: a bus parked outside the prison where he is being held.
"It seems very unorthodox," Gutierrez told CNN en Español.
The initial court appearance was to take place in a courtroom, but because of security concerns, officials wanted to move it to the prison.
Gutierrez argued that inside a prison was not a proper venue for a hearing, so the strange solution was reached: the bus-turned-courtroom parked just outside the facility.
The prison, outside the capital, Caracas, is a military facility, and Lopez's defense has raised questions about why a civilian is being held there.
The response was that it was a place where the government could guarantee his safety, Gutierrez said.
Lopez turned himself in to authorities this week in a dramatic scene before tens of thousands of supporters he had called to the streets.
Anti-government protests in recent weeks are the largest demonstrations that President Nicolas Maduro has faced in his 11 months in power.
During the demonstrations, supporters of the country's socialist government and anti-government protesters have flooded social media with reports of violence, making drastically different claims about who's behind it.
Since February 13, more than 2,000 stories from Venezuela have been uploaded to iReport, CNN's user-generated platform. Many of the videos and photos depict violent scenes between demonstrators and government forces.
Alejandro Camacho Beomont told iReport that students Wednesday blocked streets and burned debris in San Cristobal, from where he sent photos -- and he said he didn't blame them.
"Even though I am always looking for peace to make a better place to live, I think people have the right to express themselves in the ways they can, and it is not easy to express yourself in this country now," he said. "I support the protesters. There have been more than 15 years that the majority of the Venezuelan citizens are going through tough times. There are so many problems we have to face every day, and there seems to be not a sincere attitude from the high government officials to rectify (them)."
In a nationally televised broadcast Wednesday night, Maduro described bullet wounds sustained by government forces during protests and showed videos that he said depicted opposition protesters throwing stones and setting buses ablaze.
"You think this is a novel? This is the reality that you with your hatred have created," he said. "If you don't like Venezuela, leave."
Reports of violence drew condemnation from Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition politician who lost a bid for the presidency last year. He called for the government to open a dialogue with demonstrators, rather than cracking down on dissent.
"In this hour of turbulence, to the students, to those who are in the streets, again we call for you not to step into the trap of violence," he said.
Human rights concerns
Human rights groups warned about the danger of turning the protests into a persecution of political opponents.
The charges against Lopez, who has organized protests demanding better security, an end to shortages and protected freedom of speech, "smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country," Amnesty International said in a prepared statement.
Human Rights Watch warned that Venezuela must avoid "scapegoating" political opponents.