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Saturday, May 28, 2022

3 of Ortega’s ex-rivals are sentenced up to 13 years in Nicaragua

Nicaraguan justice sentenced Thursday to prison terms of up to 13 years for seven opponents, including three former presidential candidates who planned to run last year against President Daniel Ortega, finally reelected, a humanitarian source said.

The three former presidential candidates sentenced are economist Juan Chamorro (13 years), political scientist Félix Maradiaga (13 years) and former ambassador Arturo Cruz (9 years), said on Twitter the independent Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), which documents the trials.

The Ortega government, in power since 2007, accused them before the Prosecutor’s Office under the Defense of Sovereignty Law, approved in 2020 by the Congress, under the control of his party, the leftist ex-guerrilla Sandinista Front (FSLN).

The justice system found them guilty of undermining national integrity. The law considers as “traitors to the homeland” those who threaten the integrity of the country or support foreign sanctions. Ortega claims that they were conspiring to overthrow him, with Washington’s support.

But the opposition and the international community clamor for his innocence and consider that the arrests seek to ensure Ortega’s continuity in power.

“The 13-year sentence imposed today by the judge on Felix Maradiaga is illegal and obeys the mandate” of the government, protested from exile via social networks the politician’s wife, Bertha Valle.

The justice also imposed 13 years to the former vice-chancellor José Pallais and the former president of the business association José Aguerri, while the social leaders Violeta Granera and Tamara Dávila got 8 years in prison, said Cenidh.

The seven convicted on Thursday had already been found guilty on February 23, after a lengthy trial at the Judicial Assistance Directorate (DAJ) of the Police in Managua, known as El Chipote.

All of them are part of a group of 46 opponents, among them seven former presidential candidates, arrested last year in the run-up to the November elections, where Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in office.

Among those under house arrest is former presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997), who was a favorite to run against him. 

Of this group, at least 33 have been convicted, mostly for undermining national integrity, of which 25 have been sentenced to between 8 and 13 years, in trials that began a month ago.

One of them, former guerrilla and Sandinista dissident leader Hugo Torres, died ill on February 12 after spending several months in prison.

After his death, the justice system granted house arrest to five elderly opponents, whose health deteriorated due to the precarious prison conditions, according to their relatives.

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