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Costa Rica’s Supreme Court orders release of Nicaraguan unjustly imprisoned for 17 months

March 3, 2015

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of an habeas corpus filed by a man who was wrongly imprisoned for a year and five months in Costa Rica.

Police officers mistakenly arrested the man, a Nicaraguan national, at a police checkpoint after they found that the man’s name matched that of a Nicaraguan fugitive who had been sentenced by a criminal court to four years in prison. In their ruling, the justices noted that there was a 28-year difference between the two men’s ages. They also said the mens’ photographs did not match.

“Even though the man at the time told all officials involved in his capture and imprisonment that they were mistaking him for someone else, none of them conducted the elementary procedures to verify his identity,” the justices wrote in a ruling.

Upon confirming the error, the criminal court judge ordered the detainee’s release, according to a statement from Sala IV.

The justices expressed their concern “over the indifference and negligence” showed by all officials involved in the case from Costa Rica’s prison system and the Judicial Investigation Police, who refused to respond to any of the man’s attempts to explain the identity mistake.

Sala IV ordered the Prosecutors’ Office and the Judicial Investigation Police to open an investigation into the process and all officials involved.

The Tico Times contacted Sala IV, the Prosecutors’ Office and the Judicial Investigation Police about the case, but was told the institutions were not authorized to disclose any further details.

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