The Prosecution accused rural leaders Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena, Luis Pineda Icabalceta and Silvio Saul Pineda of receiving financing from the Nicaraguan organization “Hagamos Democracy” [Let’s make democracy] “to alter the public order at the roadblocks with industrial and hand-crafted arms.” This was one of the elements presented by witnesses and placed in evidence during a trial plagued with contradictions. Defense lawyer Julio Montenegro warns that the new allegation is part of a strategy aimed at “strengthening the case” and pushing for a guilty verdict.
Lenin Castellon, representing the Prosecution, presented a modification and amplification of the information: according to this, Mairena and his group allegedly met several times with Luciano Garcia Mejia, who directs the “Hagamos Democracia” organization, to receive the money. The new accusation is supposedly based on witness declarations of detectives who “followed up on the citizens.” However, the formal statement still hasn’t reached the hands of the defense nor the judge.
“We demanded the document, in order to have a baseline. They didn’t present it, and as long as that’s not done, we can’t accept this new accusation. They want to link Medardo and his group with Mr. Garcia, because they know that their trial is limping and doesn’t have the strength to formulate a conclusive sentence of guilt,” Montenegro explains.
Garcia is also accused of financing the students who occupied the Nicaraguan Polytechnic University (Upoli). The director of Hagamos Democracia has roundly denied the crimes he’s been accused of and has argued that it’s all a persecution on the part of Daniel Ortega’s regime, one that has forced him into exile in Costa Rica.
Mairena and Mena were captured on July 13 at the Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport in Managua. They’ve been accused of terrorism, organized crime and also of killing four police officials from Morrito, in the department of Rio San Juan. The police were shot during a confrontation on July 12.
After three postponements of the trial, this Tuesday the judicial proceedings finally resumed, and six witnesses took the stand. On Wednesday, following a marathon session, a total of 11 people, of the 70 that the Prosecution plans to present, offered their testimony.
A trial full of irregularities
During the course of the trial, one of the witnesses, who identified himself as a worker for the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), affirmed that this past July while they were “peacefully” celebrating the fact that President Daniel Ortega had withdrawn his controversial Social Security decree, a group of “terrorists” arrived to attack them. The witness stated that he and other Sandinista sympathizers were forced to defend themselves from this aggression.
Montenegro cross-examined the second witness for the Prosecution, who was a Police official. This witness stated: “we were comfortably celebrating when that group of terrorists arrived and attacked us with rocks, but we didn’t defend ourselves”. The official affirmed that they themselves didn’t throw any rocks, but instead retreated to take shelter in some houses nearby. This was the opposite of what the worker from Social Security had said.
“Later, there was a worker from Public Transit. He initially omitted any reference to the situation that had come up, but in the face of my insistence on this topic, he ended up accepting that in fact there’d been a confrontation. There were other discrepancies between the three witnesses. One says that there were six police there the day of events, another says there were ten, and the other twenty. This brings into question whether these witnesses in reality were at the site or not,” declares the defense lawyer.
The prosecution placed a lot of emphasis on the presentation of a video said to “prove conclusively” the participation of Mairena and Mena, as well as rural leader Francisca Ramirez, in events related to the destruction of state institutions. Before presenting the images, Castellon insisted that they would reaffirm the version that the District Attorney’s office has sustained in their accusation.
“They presented a video where Medardo appears walking, while behind him there’s a group of people on a cobblestone street, all of them in a march with blue and white flags. Then, immediately there was a break in the video with an image spliced in; it’s clearly a different image of another situation. In this one, Medardo doesn’t appear; other people appear with red and black flags. Then, there’s a third image spliced in, where there’s practically a raging battle between people who are behind some barricades, and on the other side people who can be identified as members of the governing party,” the lawyer tells us.
According to Montenegro, this video of the Prosecution was presented as “an element of absolute proof to accuse Medardo Mairena of leading, promoting, attacking and producing damages at the site of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS).” The defense lawyer has made clear that the damage that the government’s Public Ministry tried to prove was with evidence that has clearly been tampered with.
“In terms of human rights, the situation of the little hell, of the chains, of mistreatment in the darkness persists. The detained are kept in small, isolated cells that measure no more than three meters by four, barely enough for a mattress, and they are left in the dark and in the heat. Since there’s no window and they don’t have anything else, these represent inadequate conditions that they’re being held in,” Montenegro denounced.
More trials in progress in Managua
The trial of the four citizens accused of killing and incinerating the body of a state worker began this Wednesday in Managua’s Judicial Complex. Erick Antonio Carazo Talavera, Cristopher Marlon Mendez, Misael Espinoza and Ulises Ruben Toval Rios are accused of killing Francisco Ramon Arauz Pineda and of gravely wounding Jose Antonio Fernandez Robles, both identified
Juan Ramon Mena and Oscar Giovanni Jaime, who haven’t yet been captured, are also accused of this crime. The Attorney General’s office implicates Mena and Espinoza as co-authors of the assassination of Arauz Pineda and of the wounds suffered by Fernandez Robles.
The others are accused of disrupting public services, illegal possession and use of firearms, and the profanation and incineration of the body of Arauz Pineda.
The events took place last June 16, the same day that six members of a family, among them two children, died when a fire ripped through their Managua residence in one of the bloodiest days of the socio-political crisis that Nicaragua has been experiencing since last April 18.
The University Coordinator informed that on Wednesday Jonathan Lopez, university leader from the Nicaraguan National Autonomous University (UNAN), was presented to the court in Managua, along with five of his fellow students at this public university: Pedro Jose Estrada Ortiz, Jose Angel Ortiz Cuaresma, Kevin Roberto Solis, Andres Eliseo Cruz and Franklin Artola Garcia,
The trial of Yubrank Suazo, leader of the April 19th movement in Masaya, was rescheduled until January 31, 2019, according to information provided by his lawyer, Yonarqui Martinez.