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Nicaragua deports AFP photojournalist to Costa Rica

May 13, 2013

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega deported a Chilean Agence France-Presse photojournalist to Costa Rica on Saturday after detaining him without charges for four days.

“I am happy to be free,” Héctor Retamal said upon his arrival at the airport in San José, the Costa Rican capital.

The 37-year-old was arrested Tuesday night near the presidential residence in Managua, police said. He was headed there to cover the meeting of Ortega and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki.

“I do not understand why I had so many days in solitary confinement for trying to take pictures of a meeting of the president,” Retamal said. “These were very difficult, anxious days, not knowing what would happen to me.”

Retamal was deported on a TACA flight to Costa Rica, Chilean consul Diego Rivera said earlier, adding that the charge against him was “violating immigration law.”

His deportation followed an appeal by AFP for his release.

“We are worried about our colleague and we demand his immediate release,” AFP’s Central America Director Marcelo Brusa said. “We don’t know what he is accused of.”

Since Tuesday, Retamal was held incommunicado in the offices of a police unit that handles cases of terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.

He had no access to a lawyer and, over the course of four days, could only receive two visits from Rivera. The last was on Thursday evening.

“The detention is illegal,” said lawyer Raúl Arévalo, who filed an appeal for Retamal’s release. “The police have 48 hours to gather the information they need but he remains in custody and no charges have been filed.”

The French Embassy also took steps to secure his release.

Sonia González, president of Nicaragua’s foreign correspondent’s association, ACEN, asked the presidential spokeswoman and first lady, Rosario Murillo, to help to “promptly resolve” the situation.

“Our job is to cover journalistic events in Nicaragua and that is what Mr. Retamal was doing Tuesday night,” she said in a letter. There has not been a response.

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