The two former US special forces soldiers have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

This photo released by the Venezuelan Miraflores presidential press office shows what Venezuelan authorities identify as the the IS cards of former US special forces citizen Airan Berry, right, and Luke Denman, left, in Caracas, Venezuela on May 4, 2020.
This photo released by the Venezuelan Miraflores presidential press office shows what Venezuelan authorities identify as the the IS cards of former US special forces citizen Airan Berry, right, and Luke Denman, left, in Caracas, Venezuela on May 4, 2020. (AP Archive)

A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former US soldiers to 20 years in prison for their role in a failed incursion aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro in early May.

Former Green Berets Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, admitted to participating in the May 4 operation, chief prosecutor Tarek Saab wrote on Twitter late on Friday.

"Said gentlemen ADMITTED to having committed the crimes," he wrote, adding that the trials were ongoing for dozens of others captured.

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Denman and Berry were charged with conspiracy, terrorism and illicit weapons trafficking, Saab wrote.

Alfonso Medina, a lawyer for the two, said their legal team was not allowed into the courtroom. The two men were not available for comment.

Operation Gideon

The sea incursion launched from Colombia, known as Operation Gideon, left at least eight dead.

Maduro's government said it arrested a group of conspirators that included Denman and Berry near the isolated coastal town of Chuao.

US special forces veteran Jordan Goudreau, who ran Silvercorp USA, a private Florida-based security firm, has claimed responsibility for the raid.

Lawyers for the men said the hearing was marred by irregularities.

Alonso Medina Roa said he was hired a month ago by the families of the two Americans but has so far been barred from meeting or speaking with his clients.

In violation of their constitutional rights to a defence, he said, Judge Maximo Marquez never informed him of Friday night’s proceedings at the headquarters of the SEBIN police, where the men are being held. They were represented instead by a public defender. It's unknown if a translator was present.

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Guaido aware

Denman appeared in a video on Venezuelan state TV days after their capture, saying they had been contracted by Silvercorp USA to train 50 to 60 Venezuelans in Colombia, seize control of Caracas' airport and bring in a plane to fly Maduro to the United States.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido's office said Guaido had known about the operation since October but did not finance or order it.

Maduro, who describes Guaido as a Washington puppet, has said that US President Donald Trump's government-backed the operation.

The Trump administration has denied any direct involvement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US government would use "every tool" to secure the US citizens' return. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies