Lesther Alemán, the student leader who demanded the resignation of socialist President Daniel Ortega in 2018, has just been sentenced for conspiracy against Nicaragua. Like him, five other detained opponents were found guilty of that crime and his relatives are clamoring for his innocence.
“My son at no time has destabilized the country,” Lesther’s mother Lesbia Alfaro tells AFP, who says he is being condemned “only for raising his voice, because he was seeing the injustice that was happening in the country with so many dead comrades.”
Alemán, 24, was found guilty on Thursday by a court, charged with the crime of “conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity”, in a trial held behind closed doors in a Managua jail.
In 2018, Alemán asked Ortega to resign from the presidency during the dialogue that the Catholic Church had promoted between the government and the social organizations that participated in the demonstrations, which according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) left 355 dead from repression and more than 100,000 exiled.
“What Lesther was asking for was justice and for that” they prosecuted him in an act of “hatred”, Alfaro maintains and stresses that his son is “innocent”.
Lesther, who went into exile in 2018 and returned to Nicaragua in 2019, is one of 46 opposition members arrested in 2021, most of them months before the November elections in which former guerrilla Ortega was re-elected for his fourth consecutive term. With him, there are now six sentenced members of that group.
“It doesn’t matter if they give him 10 or 15 years (in prison), this is going to end,” the woman said, referring to the sentence that the judge will hand down in the coming days.
“It hurts me how they treat him”
On February 1, the trials against the imprisoned opponents began. The Prosecutor’s Office requested 10 years in prison for opposition activist Yader Parajón, convicted for the crime of conspiracy.
The “prosecutors, those clowns, were asking for 10 years in prison” for Yader, denounced his father Miguel Parajón, after attending the sentencing hearing which was also held in a prison auditorium with no access for the press.
Yader, who was arrested last September while trying to leave the country, arrived at the hearing guarded by police with his hands handcuffed and his head down.
He is “very thin, it hurts me to see how they treat him”, even “it makes me want to cry”, said the man, who said that his son, when he saw him, tried to cheer him up.
“Be strong dad, I’m going to get out someday, don’t worry,” Miguel said his son told him, whose sentence will be announced next Tuesday.
Among the victims of the 2018 repression is Jimmy Parajón, Yader’s brother, who “was killed with a shot in his chest”, his father said.
“It would be good to have a dialogue”
Miguel said that Yader was prosecuted for complaining about the death of his brother, since whose death, his family lives a “nightmare”.
“I ask for his freedom because my son is innocent, my boy is not a criminal, he has not killed anyone, he was studying at the university, but his dream was cut short,” he lamented. Yader’s mother died of cancer in 2017.
“It would be good to have a dialogue” that would allow the release of all imprisoned opponents,” urged Miguel Parajón. President Ortega has already warned that things will not be like in 2018, when there was amnesty for detained protesters.
Another of the imprisoned and recently convicted opponents is journalist and former presidential candidate Miguel Mora.
His wife, journalist Veronica Chavez, who attended the trial, told AFP that Mora is “innocent” and that “he is resisting with strength and an unshakable faith in God.”
“He has not committed any crime and therefore I continue to hope for his release,” Chavez demanded.
Relatives of the detained opponents have denounced the precarious prison conditions and health problems faced by the inmates.
Among those sentenced is also the ex-guerrilla and leader of the Sandinista dissidence Dora María Téllez, former comrade in arms of Ortega, from whom she distanced herself due to political differences in the 90s.
The international community, mainly the United States, the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) have called for the release of opponents in Nicaragua.