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President of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Dissident Group Found Guilty

Nicaraguan justice found the president of the Sandinista dissidence, Suyen Barahona, guilty Monday of undermining national integrity, in the second week of judicial proceedings against 46 critics of President Daniel Ortega, according to lawyers and family.

The prosecution requested 15 years in prison for Barahona and her political disqualification from holding public office, reported on Twitter, the non-governmental Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), a network of lawyers who defend detained opponents.

“I have dedicated much of my adult life to improving Nicaragua and (to) defending the human rights of all Nicaraguans,” Barahona said during the trial, according to a statement released to the press by her relatives.

Barahona is president of the Democratic Union of Nicaragua (Unamos), formerly the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS-center-left), who is being held in the cells of the Judicial Assistance Directorate (DAJ), known as El Chipote.

The ex-MRS leader was captured on June 13 in a raid against five other members of this dissident group of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), among them former guerrilla Dora María Téllez and retired army general Hugo Tórrez. 

The prosecution accused Barahona of undermining independence, sovereignty and self-determination, inciting foreign interference in internal affairs.

The charges against Barahona and other imprisoned opponents are contained in laws approved by the Parliament at the end of 2020, which provide for prison sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years.

The MRS emerged in 1995, following the largest split of the FSLN, after the 1990 electoral defeat. Its main representative was former vice-president and writer Sergio Ramírez, now in exile.

In 2008, the MRS lost its legal personality due to a resolution of the electoral tribunal, which judged that it did not comply with the legal requirements. In 2021, it changed its name to Unamos. Before the changes, the MRS case was on appeal in the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). 

On Monday, the justice issued its verdict sentencing former MRS president (2016-2019) Ana Margarita Vijil to 10 years in prison, whose trial was held last week, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) reported on Twitter.

CENIDH noted that Vijil has been sentenced “for crimes she did not commit and for dreaming of a Nicaragua in justice, freedom and democracy.”

Since February 1, seven prisoners, four of them from Unamos, have been put on trial and found guilty. They are awaiting sentencing. 

The opposition bloc Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB), of which Unamos is a member, denounced on Monday that the criminal proceedings are “null and void” because they have been carried out in “secrecy” and the right to defense of the accused has been violated.

Ortega, 76 years old, describes the opponents as “criminals” and “delinquents” who intended a coup d’état with the help of the United States.

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