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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Relatives of opponents imprisoned in Nicaragua say mistreatment persists

Relatives of political opponents imprisoned in Nicaragua on charges of “conspiracy” against the government of Daniel Ortega denounced Thursday that a constant “physical deterioration,” “mistreatment” and violation of the rights of the detainees persists.

“The physical deterioration continues. In most cases they continue to lose weight and suffer from extreme weakness. (…) They are pale, many do not have access to the sun and others only once a week,” according to a statement read by three relatives who participated in a virtual press conference after visiting their family members.

Between last June and August, 37 opponents, including seven candidates for the presidency in the November 7 elections, were arrested on charges of promoting foreign interference to undermine sovereignty. The government considers the prisoners to be “terrorists” who organized to carry out a coup with the help of the United States.

Family members were able to visit them for the second time between Monday and Wednesday, and stated that the isolation conditions in dark cells, without ventilation or shelter, have not changed since they were reported in early September, during the first visit.

International human rights organizations have demanded the immediate release of opposition leaders, as well as the suspension of trials during which, according to their families, they have been deprived of the right to defense.

Family members said they were allowed to visit “under restrictive and arbitrary conditions.”

Upon arriving at the El Chipote prison, “we suffered humiliating physical searches that included the search of our underwear and the dispossession of objects for personal use,” the statement added.

“They put me in a room where they checked everything. (…) They put a dog that smelled me, even my private parts. That is one of the worst things that relatives have had to go through,” said one of the visitors, without revealing their identity.

Cristian Tinoco, daughter of former Vice Chancellor Víctor Hugo Tinoco, said that her mother and her sister “had their underwear and shoes checked.”

“They asked my sister for her glasses even though she can’t see without them,” she added.

According to the report of the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, made up of family members and human rights organizations, there are 145 people detained in Nicaragua for political reasons.

The serious political crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing erupted with the anti-government protests of April 2018, the repression of which left more than 300 dead, hundreds imprisoned and more than 100,000 exiles.

Ortega, 75, in power since 2007, is seeking his fourth consecutive term, with no rivals to put his reelection at risk.

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