Crime & Justice

Nicaragua frees, expels 222 political prisoners, including priests

Tegucigalpa, Feb 9 (EFE).- Nicaraguan authorities on Thursday expelled to the United States a group of 222 “political prisoners,” including five priests, whom they disqualified for life from holding public office or running in elections.

The 222 prisoners, among whom are seven who tried to run for president against the country’s current Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega, were deported to the US “for being traitors to the fatherland,” according to the sentence handed down against them by the Managua Appeals Court.

The ruling read by the president of the court, Judge Octavio Rothschuh, also ordered the former candidates to be barred for life from holding public office or running for election and suspended their rights as Nicaraguan citizens for life.

The court ordered “the immediate deportation of 222 people sentenced for committing acts undermining the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of the people, for inciting violence, for terrorism and economic destabilization,” according to the sentence read by the judge.

The 222 opposition members and critics of the government were also expelled “for harming the supreme interests of the nation established in the legal order, conventions and international human rights treaties, attacking peace, security and the constitutional order,” the ruling added.

“The deportees were declared to be traitors to the fatherland and sanctioned for various serious crimes and disqualified in perpetuity from holding public office in the name of the … State of Nicaragua, as well as from exercising office by public election, (and) their citizens’ rights were suspended in perpetuity,” said the Appeals Court.

Among the political prisoners freed by the Sandinista government is Cristiana Chamorro, the Nicaraguan presidential candidate who had the best chance of defeating Ortega in the November 2021 elections.

Besides Chamorro, who was the big missing factor in that election after the government disqualified her from running and arrested her in July 2021, the list of deportees includes six other opposition leaders who attempted to challenge Ortega at the polls: Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena and Noel Vidaurre.

In addition, the group of deportees includes five Nicaraguan Catholic priests each of whom had just been sentenced to 10 years in prison for “betraying the fatherland.”

Moreover, Nicaraguan businessmen Michael Healy and Alvaro Vargas, who were arrested while presiding over the Private Enterprise Superior Council (Cosep), and business executives Jose Adan Aguerri, Luis Rivas and Arnulfo Somarriba were also expelled.

The list includes the general manager of Nicaraguan daily La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, as well as student leaders Lesther Aleman and Max Jerez, along with dissident Sandinista guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez.

Also, the list includes former Foreign Minister Francisco Aguirra Sacasa, former Deputy Foreign Ministers Victor Hugo Tinoco and Jose Pallais, former ambassadors Edgar Parrales, Mauricio Diaz, Oscar Rene Vargas, and other defenders of human rights, dissident Sandinistas, student leaders, journalists, activists and independent professionals.

The Nicaraguan University Alliance (AUN), one of the members of which is Lesther Aleman, who interrupted a live televised transmission by Ortega during the start of a failed national dialogue in May 2018 and called for his resignation to resolve the crisis in which Nicaragua was – and is – mired, announced that it will continue fighting to help all the deportees recover their Nicaraguan citizenship and all their corresponding rights.

A political source told EFE that Bishop Rolando Alvarez, with the Matagalpa diocese and who has been under house arrest since last August, was included by Nicaraguan authorities on the list of prisoners to be sent to the US, but he refused to leave the country.

The Organization of American States on Thursday demanded that the Ortega government restore the rights of the 222 prisoners.

Nicaragua has been mired in a political and social crisis since April 2018, and the situation has worsened after the controversial Nov. 7, 2021, general elections in which Ortega was reelected for a fifth term, his fourth consecutive term as president and second with his wife, Rosario Murillo, as vice president.

All of Ortega’s and Murillo’s main opponents for high elective office are either in prison or in exile.

EFE mg/gf/bp

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