Never-ending political persecution: more than 200 detained in less than two months
The Number of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua Rises to 767
“Arrested for demonstrating and prosecuted in flawed trials,” claims Brenda Gutierrez, mother of Rodrigo Espinoza, a young man sentenced to 17 years.
The number of political prisoners of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has risen to 767 people, according to the Committee of Political Prisoners, which groups relatives of detainees as a result of the regime’s political persecution.
The data reveals that, contrary to the demand for freedom of political prisoners, the number of detainees, previously at 565, increased by more than two-hundred in December and January.
“They arrest people for demonstrating and hold trials that are flawed. We know that those orders [the charges and guilty verdicts] come from El Carmen [the Ortega-Murillo residence]. The words of (former Supreme Court magistrate Rafael) Solis confirm that all this is a set-up,” says Brenda Rodriguez, mother of Rodrigo Espinoza (a young man sentenced to 17 years in prison).
In an exclusive interview with journalist Carlos F. Chamorro, the former judge and member of the Ortega inner circle said that the trials against citizens are political orders dictated by the presidential couple from El Carmen.
“The magistrates of the appeals court, or in our case, the magistrates of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court can still overturn these decisions, but it is extremely difficult due to the state of terror imposed,” wrote Solis in his letter of resignation from his position of over 21 years on the Supreme Court and his militancy of more than four decades in the governing Sandinista Front.
More than 70 detainees outside the term of the law
Among the 767 detainees, there are at least 77 who are kidnapped in the cells of the Directorate of Judicial Assistance, known as El Chipote, outside the legal term of 48 hours established by law.
The number of political prisoners was delivered in a document to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, by Mayra Tijerino, mother of the political prisoner Eduardo Tijerino, leader of the April 19th Movement, in Matagalpa.
The data indicates that some 42 citizens remained detained in departmental and district police stations, and about 450 are in some unit of the National Penitentiary System, some of them in maximum security cells, such as the peasant leader of the anti-canal movement and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, Medardo Mairena.
Of the total number of prisoners, at least 113 have already been sentenced to as many as 80 years, although the maximum period established in prison is thirty years.
However, in reality the prison conditions between the accused and the convicted do not vary nor is there any separation between them, as established by Nicaraguan legislation.
Where are the 149 kidnapped?
According to the Committee’s data, only 23 detainees face political processes on provisional release. Most of them adolescents, although at some point, all suffered imprisonment in cells shared with adults, which is contrary to law.
“Additionally, 149 names of people are registered who were once reported as kidnapped by the police and paramilitary forces, without any record of their real location and an undetermined number of prisoners and disappeared, whose families have not filed the respective complaints for the justified fear of reprisals from the regime,” states the document.
“We denounce in this report the situation of the political prisoners, the tortures, the reprisals that continue against them, the kidnappings and false accusations made by the authorities,” explained Gutierrez.
The darkness of political prisoners
The report of the Committee specifies that the inmates held in the DAJ and the Penitentiary System, as well as in the police stations, systematically suffer violations of their rights: the detentions are illegal and the court processes are flawed in a generalized manner.
Last Friday, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), which accompanies or is in charge of the defense of many of the accused, reported that more than a hundred demonstrators, who are prisoners, were victims of “theft” and “cruel treatment” by their jailers, who took them out of their cells to steal their belongings of personal hygiene and even medicines.
“The health of several prisoners and the lack of medical care are very worrying. The confinement conditions in places such as “El Infiernillo” (Little hell), in La Modelo prison. Also the beatings and cruel treatment at the La Esperanza (women’s) and La Modelo prisons, explains the document of the Committee of Nicaraguan Political Prisoners.
Illegality as a rule
Regarding illegal detentions, the reports states that the norm in the actions of the police and paramilitaries are specifically against those who demonstrate against the Government. They are also characterized by the abduction of people from public places or from their homes, using violence.
“These detentions happen without warrants, and by non-competent authorities, or by armed civilians at the service of the regime. On many occasions, there are testimonies of arrests, especially in the months of June and July, of captured people not taken to prisons, but to FSLN party houses and clandestine places. It has been a constant that people detained spend more than 48 hours, even weeks and months, without being presented to the courts,” the document states.
Regarding the court procedures, the Committee expresses that a series of illegal patterns have been identified, among which are the removal of the judge who has jurisdiction, and that the preliminary hearings are secret, since relatives are not informed and on occasions neither are the defense lawyers.
“During judicial processes the contact with prisoners is permanently violated, their right to communicate with their lawyer, the right to have a public trial, among others. The defense witnesses are constantly harassed before and after their appearances,” they note.
Prisoners despite release orders
Organizations that defend human rights have also reported that at least five people remain in detention despite having orders for their release. One of them is the marathon runner Alex Vanegas, who ran through the streets of the capital precisely to demand the release of political prisoners, and has been imprisoned for more than ninety days.
Albert Quincell, Bernard Monroe and Guillermo Alberto Sobalvarro Oporta are also detained despite the fact that they have release orders, and continue in maximum security cells at the La Modelo prison.
Jorge Huascar Montenegro, a prisoner in La Modelo prison, and the minor Jonathan Lira Matey, in El Chipote, also have not been released, despite having orders (for their release).
The Committee reported in the aforementioned document that they are aware of the systematic non-compliance of orders issued by judges, regarding the movement of detainees for forensic evaluation at the Institute of Legal Medicine.
Some of the most worrisome situations are the case of “Brenda Munoz, from Diria, who has a polycystic liver and kidney disease; Nardo Sequiera, from Acoyapa, who presents an acute case of depression; Max Francisco Cruz Gutierrez, of Ometepe, wounded by the police on the day of his abduction and who is kept in prison with an in-hospital infection.
There is also the situation of Juan Bautista Guevara, of Ticuantepe, who could be deaf due to a beating received in El Chipote, and Ruth Matute, of Masaya, kidnapped on October 7 when she was going to leave food for her detained husband at the Police station, and who is in a delicate situation at a hospital in the capital for a cardiac deficiency not attended on time.
“We have evidence of multiple cases of political prisoners with diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy and seizures resulting from beatings and injures. These are critical health conditions that need special care,” says the report.
Likewise, it is estimated that some 54 political prisoners suffer subhuman conditions and differentiated detention, among which ten are in punishment cells, 29 female prisoners are in maximum security and 15 prisoners in the place called “El Infiernillo” (little hell), where they receive no sun except for a few minutes a day.
-202 citizens have been illegally imprisoned between December and January, bringing the number of political prisoners to 767.
-77 political prisoners remain in the cells of El Chipote outside the legal term of 48 hours established by law.
-5 political prisoners, including a minor, remain in prison despite release orders.
-113 political prisoners have already been convicted of the crimes fabricated by the dictatorship. But condemned or not, all share the same jail conditions, contrary to the law.
-70 women and three trans-women are among the list of more than 700 political prisoners of the dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo.
423 of the political prisoners already face some judicial process against them, while another 200 are still waiting a hearing.