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All seven opposition candidates sentenced to prison

Urnas Abiertas: “This is the consummation of the political persecution and prosecution against any opposition leadership or force”; Costa Rica condemns

Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, former president of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), accused of alleged money laundering by Daniel Ortega’s regime, was the last of seven presidential candidates convicted by Ortega’s justice system, after nine and a half months of repression to cancel elections and close democratic spaces in Nicaragua.

The other six aspiring presidential candidates are academic Arturo Cruz, former ambassador to the United States for the Ortega government (2007-2009), from which he distanced himself; activist, academic, and leader of the Blue and White National Unity, Félix Maradiaga, and the economist and nephew-in-law of former president Barrios de Chamorro, Juan Sebastián Chamorro.

They also include journalist Miguel Mora, founder, owner, and former director of the television channel 100% Noticias, closed down by the authorities and now broadcast on an Internet platform; peasant leader Medardo Mairena; and conservative lawyer and politician Noel Vidaurre.

The FSLN judicial machinery sentenced Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena, Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Félix Maradiaga to thirteen years in prison; and Arturo Cruz and Noel Vidaurre to nine years in prison. Chamorro was sentenced to eight years, including fines of millions of dollars.

The trial of Cristiana Chamorro is part of a series of judicial proceedings against some forty opposition leaders and critics of the Sandinista government, who were imprisoned prior to the elections and accused mostly of “treason” or alleged money laundering.

Violations in political trials against the seven presidential aspirants

The Urnas Abiertas citizen observatory summarized the violations observed in the political trials against the seven presidential candidates. This is the content of its report. 

Cristiana Chamorro

Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, candidates sentenced to prison
Cristiana Chamorro Barrios. Photo: Confidencial

Journalist and defender of public liberties. She was the presidential candidate with the highest citizen support according to polls. On June 2, 2021, the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered a raid on Cristiana Chamorro’s house and then her house arrest. She is incommunicado, occasionally allowed to see her sons and daughters at limited times. She has had contact with her defense once and her defenders have not been allowed access to her file.

On Friday, March 11, 2022, she was found guilty of the crimes of money laundering, property and assets laundering, misappropriation and improper retention, abusive management, and ideological falsehood, and was sentenced to 8 years in prison and a fine equivalent to three times the amount allegedly laundered. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Chamorro operated through the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), an organization that promoted freedom of the press in Nicaragua through funds received from international organizations. Among those organizations is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has denied any embezzlement in the use of its funds. Chamorro was a board member of the FVBCh in January 2021.

Her trial, in which she was disqualified from holding public office, lasted seven days and was held in El Chipote without access to the press or the public. The reading of the sentence took place on March 21. Her house arrest is maintained. Her trial was in the hands of Judge Luden Martín Quiroz García, of the Ninth Criminal Trial District Court of Managua.

During the trial,  the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove the money laundering accusation. The defense lacks a version of the expert investigation. Witnesses questioned admitted that they did not know why the detainees were accused. Witnesses: state journalist; Franya Urey Blandón, Director of the Department of Registration and Control of Associations of the Ministry of the Interior (Migob); Luis Carlos Hernández Mendoza, financial analyst of the same institution.

During the trial, her defense was prohibited from having access to cell phones and any other electronic equipment that would allow them to optimally carry out their duties; unlike the defense, the judicial authorities had all possible electronic devices and established connections with people from the outside during the session.

Since her arrest, the defense has requested medical examinations for special health situations or visits with her family members, but most of these have been denied or have lacked any response from the judges. 

Félix Maradiaga

Félix Maradiaga
Felix Maradiaga. Photo: Courtesy Jorge Mejía Peralta

Academic and political activist. On June 8, 2021, Félix Maradiaga was arrested after attending a summons at the Prosecutor’s Office; that same day he was informed that they had opened an investigation against him for “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs”. Prior to his arrest, he recorded a video to express his commitment to the country and to express his suspicions about his arrest.

After having been suspended on three occasions, the trial was held on February 23, 2022, and he was found guilty of the alleged crime of “conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua and society”. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and disqualified from holding public office. The trial lasted seven days and was held without access to the press or the public in El Chipote, the sentence was read on March 3, 2022. Judge Félix Ernesto Salmerón Moreno, in charge of the Fifth Criminal District Trial Court of Managua, issued a prison sentence.

The prosecution presented 27 National Police agents as witnesses and the evidence presented against him was his participation in a WhatsApp group and interviews he gave to the media. According to his defenders, 35 violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were committed during the trial. On the day of the trial he was prevented from any communication with his lawyer.

Since his arrest he has had four lawyers: one arbitrarily detained, two who went into exile and one he met the same day he was found guilty. He has been subjected to psychological torture and inhuman treatment. He is held in a cell with another political prisoner and is forced to remain silent. He is occasionally allowed to receive visits from his sister.

His wife Berta Valle was accused of being a “traitor to the homeland” for asking for his freedom in international forums.

Juan Sebastian Chamorro

Juan Sebastián Chamorro
Juan Sebastián Chamorro. // Photo: Confidencial

Economist, businessman and politician. He was arrested at his home during a raid on June 8, 2021.  Prior to his arrest he recorded a video to express his commitment to the country and to express his suspicions of arrest.

Despite the fact that his trial was suspended up to three times, Juan Sebastián Chamorro was found guilty on the same day of his birthday, February 23, 2022, for the alleged crime of “conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua and society”. 

He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and disqualified from holding public office. The trial lasted seven days and was conducted without access to the press or the public in El Chipote. The sentence was read on March 3, 2022. Judge Félix Ernesto Salmerón Moreno, in charge of the Fifth Criminal District Trial Court of Managua, issued a prison sentence.

The prosecution presented 27 National Police agents as witnesses and the evidence presented against him was his participation in a WhatsApp group and interviews he gave to the media, in addition to a cell phone taken during the raid on his home. According to his defenders, 35 violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were committed during the trial. On the day of the trial he was prevented from communicating with his lawyer.

Since his arrest he has been subjected to psychological torture and inhumane treatment. He is held in a cell with other political prisoners and is forced to remain silent. He is occasionally allowed to receive family visits. He has not been allowed any letters, phone calls or photos from his wife, Victoria Cárdenas, who was accused of being a “traitor to the country” for asking  for Chamorro’s freedom in international forums.

Miguel Mora

Miguel Mora, candidato a la presidencia de Nicaragua, PRD
Miguel Mora, presidential aspirant for the PRD. Photo: Archivo | Confidencial

Journalist and businessman. Miguel Mora was arrested at his home on June 20, 2021. On February 4, 2022 he was convicted of the alleged crime of “conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua and society” and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Since his arrest, he has been subjected to psychological torture and inhumane treatment. He is being held in a cell with other political prisoners. He is occasionally allowed to receive family visits.

This is his second imprisonment since the start of the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua. The first time, he was captured on December 21, 2018 until June 2019, when he was released through an Amnesty Law approved by the National Assembly.

In December 2018, the regime confiscated his equipment, the broadcast frequency and facilities of his channel 100% Noticias.

The trial lasted seven days and was conducted without access to the press or the public in El Chipote. The sentence was read on February 9, 2022 and he was disqualified from holding public office. Judge Nadia Tardencilla issued a prison sentence.

The evidence that the Prosecutor’s Office presented against Mora are publications that the journalist made on social network Twitter. It also includes an audiovisual file containing the excerpt of an interview given by the journalist in 2018, according to relatives, said file was manipulated. The representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office presented evidence (passport, cell phone and computer), without managing to explain its relation to the alleged conspiracy crime.

The witnesses presented were four policemen: one who was present at the raid, another who wrote the arrest warrant and the alleged detective who monitored Mora’s social network accounts.

Judge Nadia Tardencilla ordered that the goods seized from Mora (an iPhone, a Samsung cell phone, an Apple computer) be assigned to the Police to “strengthen the work of this institution”. 

Medardo Mairena

candidates sentenced to prison

Farmer and peasant leader. He was arrested on July 5, 2021 along with three other rural leaders: Pedro Mena, Freddy Navas and Pablo Morales (later released).

On February 9, 2022 he was convicted of “conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity”, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The trial lasted seven days and was conducted without access to the media or the public in El Chipote. The sentence was read on February 19, 2022 and he was disqualified from holding public office. Judge Félix Ernesto Salmerón Moreno, in charge of the Fifth Criminal District Trial Court of Managua, issued a prison sentence.

The prosecution presented a photograph of Mairena next to US Ambassador Kevin Sullivan, videos where he requests international sanctions and screenshots of publications on social networks where he asks for respect for human rights as evidence. Prior to his arrest he recorded an audio to show his commitment to the country and to express his suspicions of arrest. 

Since his arrest he has been subjected to psychological torture and inhumane treatment. He is being held in a cell with other political prisoners. He is occasionally allowed to receive family visits.

This is his second imprisonment since the outbreak of the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua. He was captured for the first time on July 13, 2018 and released on June 11, 2019 under an Amnesty Law passed by the National Assembly. At the time, he was sentenced to 216 years in prison for “terrorism” and “breaking the constitutional order”. 

Arturo Cruz

Arturo Cruz’s House, candidates sentenced to prison
Presidential aspirant Arturo Cruz after an interview in April 2021. Photo: Nayira Valenzuela

Academic and diplomat. He was arrested at the Augusto César Sandino Airport on June 5, 2021 after returning from a tour of the United States. The Public Prosecutor’s Office informed that former ambassador Arturo Cruz had been detained for violating Law 1055 “for the defense of the rights of the people to independence, sovereignty and self-determination”. 

On February 19, 2022, he was benefited with a change of precautionary measure from preventive detention to house arrest due to health problems.

His trial was suspended up to three times, but on February 23, 2022 he was found guilty of the alleged crime of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity to the detriment of the State of Nicaragua and society” and sentenced to 9 years in prison.

The trial lasted seven days and was conducted without access to the press or the public in El Chipote. The sentence was read on March 3, 2022 and he was disqualified from holding public office. Judge Félix Ernesto Salmerón Moreno, in charge of the Fifth Criminal District Trial Court of Managua, issued a prison sentence.

Noel Vidaurre 

candidates sentenced to prison

On Saturday, July 24, the national police reported that opposition leader Noel José Vidaurre Argüello, 66 years old, had been taken into police custody to be investigated for alleged treason. That same day, Vidaurre attended an interrogation before the Public Prosecutor’s Office. He is being held under house arrest.  

On February 25, 2022, he was found guilty of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”, and was sentenced to 9 years in prison. Judge Ulisa Yahoska Tapia Silva, of the Thirteenth Court of Managua, issued the prison sentence.

According to a publication by Confidencial “the key evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office against Vidaurre were three videos: the first, an interview with international journalist Jaime Baily, in February 2020; the second, another interview with Jaime Arellano to address the context of the country and diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and Argentina; and the third dates from 2017, with a Central American media, in which the conservative politician exposed his presidential aspirations for 2021”. In addition, six people were presented as witnesses. 

The trial was conducted without access to the press or the public in El Chipote. The sentence was read on March 7, 2022 and he was disqualified from holding public office.

Elderly candidates

In the group of aspiring presidential candidates, there are two senior citizens. They are Arturo Cruz, 68 years old, and Noel Vidaurre, 66 years old, who are locked behind bars. According to the Law of the Elderly, which applies to people over 60, “a simple process must be guaranteed, with priority, speed, free of charge, immediacy, with the due process guarantees that protects them against acts that violate or may violate their human rights and fundamental liberties”. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff

https://mailchi.mp/confidencial.digital/englishnewsletterform


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