According to the Nicaraguan Interior Ministry, Eddy Antonio Montes Praslin, a political prisoner, was killed by a prison guard this Thursday, May 16, inside the La Modelo prison. The institution, under the Ortega-Murillo regime, asserted that the prisoners mutinied against the guards, who were “attacked” and acted “in self-defense”.
“Eddy Antonio was part of the group of prisoners who rushed the penitentiary staff at the security zone, struggling with one of the guards with clear intentions of taking his reglementary weapon and menacing the life of the officials, one of whom in self-defense fired a single shot despite holding an automatic rifle,” affirmed the second statement issued by the Interior Ministry this past Thursday.
However, sources within the penitentiary system told Univision reporter Tiffany Roberts and reporters from Confidencial that there was more than one shot fired at La Modelo in contradiction to the Interior Ministry’s account.
“Several shots fired from an AKA were heard in Gallery 16, the place where the incident occurred,” stated the source from the prison. “At that hour, all of the guards from La Modelo and even the administrative personnel went up to [Gallery] 16. Later, around a half dozen pick-ups full of members of the riot squad arrived at La Modelo.
The prison source asserted that around 3:30 pm the pick-ups left La Modelo with the wounded, although he didn’t specify if these were political prisoners or guards. The family members of the political prisoners took up vigil outside the jail to demand information regarding their relatives, but up until the moment of publication for this article the only information obtained was that the riot squad is hindering their demands.
The initial statement from the Interior Ministry states: “For the ninth time, serious alterations to the internal order were presented by the prisoners imprisoned for crimes against the public order, who in recent days have destroyed the infrastructure of the prison gallery by burning their assigned mattresses, destroying the electrical system, the gallery roof, the security fence and by aggression against penitentiary employees.”
The authorities used this tale to justify the armed intervention in Gallery 16, since the Penitentiary Regime Law (#473) allows the introduction of firearms into the penal institutions when it’s a matter of circumstances such as mutiny, abduction, escape and the preservation of the penal center’s installations.” On the contrary, the legislation states, “Armed access to the interior of the penal institution and surrounding areas where those deprived of liberty move is prohibited.”
Gonzalo Carrion, lawyer and human rights advocate, emphasized that the Interior Ministry’s statements maintain that it was a matter of a “grave alteration to the internal order,” but according to him, said circumstances didn’t merit the “disproportionate use of force.”
“Supposing that what the Interior Ministry says is true, when they speak of disturbances, in these cases there’s a deployment of preventive force with appropriate techniques for disturbances. Neither the alteration of the public order nor of property justifies the use of firearms or deprivation of life. The result only demonstrates the brutal use of force and arbitrary privation of life. At the very least, the death of this political prisoner should be classified as a homicide,” affirmed Carrion.
He declared that the Interior Ministry didn’t reveal the name of the supposed guard who opened fire in self-defense, but instead, in the second statement disparaged the fatal victim attributing a series of crimes to him and accusing him of having wounded police officers in Matagalpa in May of 2018.
“They belittled the victim’s life to justify what they did. That’s what they’ve done with all the deaths from the protests – to say that they were terrorists or delinquents so that society should think that they deserved to die,” Carrion criticized.
Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty International Director for the Americas, termed Montes Praslin’s death an “execution”.
Mutiny during the Red Cross visit?
The Sandinista regime assured in its statements that the incident occurred “while the visit of the International Red Cross Committee was being received in the penitentiaries of Tipitapa (La Modelo) and the Women’s Integral Prison.”
Nonetheless, the source within the prison affirmed that “the visit of the International Red Cross took place on Wednesday, and not Thursday.” “Instead, the political prisoners were yelling that they wanted the Red Cross, when the AKA shots were heard this afternoon,”
Up until posting this article, the International Red Cross hasn’t issued any information with respect to this situation.
Sources from the Civic Alliance told Confidencial that they knew that, effectively, the International Red Cross held visits on Wednesday, but the information that they also were present at the prisons this Thursday is “something the government says.”
“It’s important to know (if the Red cross visited La Modelo this Thursday) because they want to bring them in to wash the face of things. For now, the head of the Red Cross International mission isn’t answering calls. We’ll keep trying,” stated the source from the Civic Alliance.
Members of the Civic Alliance arrived at La Modelo on Thursday night and announced that they wouldn’t be present at the negotiating table with the regime, until the death of this political prisoner had been clarified.
“We demand that the government respect the physical integrity of all the prisoners. Eddy Montes’ killing never had to happen, because he should be free. We demand the definitive liberation of all the political prisoners,” the opposition affirmed.
Not the first incident in the prisons
It’s not the first time that incidents have been registered at La Modelo. Previous to the death of Montes Praslin, the political prisoners in the same Gallery – Gallery 16 – had protested: they climbed onto the roof of the penitentiary to protest the poor treatment they were receiving. That time, the prisoners broke some of the rotting walls of the cells.
Family members of the political prisoners and defense lawyers have complained of at least six beatings carried out by guards and officials from the riot squad, since the leaders of the protests and other citizens began being imprisoned.
The men were “pummeled” on December 31, 2018; on February 19, 2019 and again on March 8, 2019. Violent acts against the political prisoners have also been committed in the women’s prison La Esperanza. The women prisoners have been beaten on at least three occasions since October of last year: on October 26, 2018; January 16, 2019; and February 7 of this year. The family members of those detained have complained tirelessly of these acts of violence. However, the viciousness and the mistreatment continues in the prisons.
On March seventh, the male political prisoners of Gallery 300 demanded that the guards open a small window in their cells because the heat was unbearable. Their petition wasn’t acceded to. The prisoners of Gallery 16 overheard their fellow prisoners and added their voice to the demand.
The next day, the political prisoners opened up a space and went out onto the prison’s roof to sing the National Anthem and wave the blue and white flag as a sign of protest. Yubrank Suazo, leader of the April 19th Movement in Masaya, recorded a video that went viral on social media. That same day, the guards sent special troops with canines to beat up the political prisoners.
A political prisoner known as “the pastor”
Eddy Montes was abducted by the police in October 2018. After being missing, he was located in the El Chipote jail. He was accused together with other citizens of having “looted” the clinic of the Matagalpa Police, and of stealing and burning one of the buildings belonging to the mayor’s office.”
The prosecutor’s office accused him of acts of terrorism, aggravated theft, hindering public service and setting a fire. His trial had not concluded.
The second statement from the Interior Ministry insisted that the victim participated “on May 15, 2018 at 9 a.m. in the attack of the Leonardo Mendoza Police Unit, located in the City of Matagalpa, wounding with firearms Police Inspector Jorge Fernando Lanzas, Assistant Inspectors Ismael Talavera Gonzalez and Oscar Danilo Otero Blandon and officer Carlos Adan Mendoza Gonzales.”