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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Former Nicaragua business leaders critical of Ortega sentenced to prison

The Nicaraguan justice system sentenced to 9 and 13 years in prison two business leaders critical of the government of Daniel Ortega, closing with them the cycle of trials against more than 40 opponents detained in 2021, a humanitarian source said.

“The fourth criminal district trial judge Angel Gonzalez sentenced [Tuesday] Michael Healy,” former president of the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), to 13 years in prison, the independent Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) said on Twitter.

He was “falsely accused of undermining national integrity,” added Cenidh, which documents these proceedings.

Along with Healy, the former vice-president of Cosep, Álvaro Vargas, was also sentenced to nine years in prison for the crime of “conspiring to undermine national integrity”, the entity said. The official authorities did not provide details of the trials.

Both former business leaders were arrested in October 2021 and found guilty last month for the crimes charged by the government. Sentencing took place on Tuesday afternoon.

The trial was held behind closed doors in the prison of the Dirección de Auxilio Judicial (DAJ) in Managua, known as El Chipote.

At the time of their arrest, Healy and Vargas were president and vice president, respectively, of Cosep, a business union that criticized the government’s repression against the social demonstrations that broke out in 2018, which left 355 dead.

The questioning led to the rupture of the alliance that businessmen had until then with the Ortega government on economic issues.

In El Chipote are held most of the 46 opponents who were arrested last year. One of them, Hugo Torres, died ill in a hospital after spending several months in prison.

Among those who have received sentences are seven who aspired to challenge Ortega for the presidency in the November elections, where the former guerrilla won his fourth consecutive term in office since 2007.

All were sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight to 13 years for undermining integrity and other crimes. “With these sentences, the cycle of judicial persecution against the political prisoners of Chipote and under house arrest closes,” said Cenidh.

The opponents were tried on the basis of a 2020 Law for the Defense of Sovereignty which punishes those who promote sanctions, foreign interference and attacks against national security. Ortega accuses them of conspiring against his government with Washington’s help.

According to the group Mecanismo para el Reconocimiento de Presos Políticos (Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners), there are 182 opposition members imprisoned in Nicaragua, among them the 46 arrested in 2021.

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