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Jailed Nicaraguan opposition suffering ‘psychological torture’

Detained Nicaraguan opposition figures are suffering from “psychological torture,” a lawyer said Wednesday, as family members also hit out at the prisoners’ conditions.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has been accused of political persecution for rounding up 34 opposition figures since the beginning of June, including seven aspiring presidential candidates.

Ortega is seeking a fourth successive term, and authorities have jailed some of his most high-profile opponents, while last month police raided the premises of a newspaper critical of the government.

On Tuesday, the government allowed the 34 opposition figures “family visits” for the first time since June.

In a statement issued in Washington, the lawyer for two jailed aspiring presidential candidates, Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, said they “have not been physically beaten, they have been psychologically tortured since arriving in prison.”

Family members allowed to visit the prisoners have complained of poor conditions such as solitary confinement, 24-hour lighting in their cells, being prevented from reading or watching television, and being allowed just one hour of sunlight a week.

Maradiga and Chamorro have lost between 20 and 25 pounds since their arrests and have been “subjected to frequent and tough interrogations,” said their lawyer Jared Genser.

Julio Sandino, the son of another prominent prisoner, Violeta Grandera, said on social media that his mother was “skinny but fine. She was super emotional, crying.

“She didn’t recognize me at first. She has no sheet or pillow.”

The opponents are accused of treason and threatening the country’s sovereignty under a controversial law approved in December that has been widely denounced as a means of freezing out challengers and silencing opponents.

Critics have accused Ortega’s government of trying to prevent any meaningful opposition from standing in November’s election.

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