Ortega’s prosecutors accuse priests who lived through siege with Monsignor Alvarez

The Nicaraguan dictatorship announced more judicial processes against Catholic priests and lay assistants, six days after Pope Francis publicly said there are talks with the Nicaraguan Executive amid an escalated persecution of the Church in recent months.

The regime’s prosecutors have yet to present an accusation against the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Alvarez, accused by Daniel Ortega’s Police of “organizing violent groups” and “hate mongering”. Instead they decided to proceed, without specifying the charges, against three priests, a deacon, two seminarians and a cameraman who lived under the police siege with the Catholic bishop in the Curia of Matagalpa between August 4 to 19.

According to the online system of the Judicial Branch, the priests accused are Ramiro Tijerino Chavez, president of the Juan Pablo II University; Jose Luis Diaz Cruz, vicar of the Matagalpa Cathedral and his predecessor Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano. All of them have been in isolation since August 19, when they were transferred to the El Chipote prison in Managua, while the bishop was forcibly confined to house arrest incommunicado in Managua by the same police.

The other charges were against deacon Raul Antonio Vega, seminarians Darvin Leiva Mendoza and Melkin Centeno, as well as photojournalist Sergio Cadena Flores. As has happened on other occasions, both the prosecutor and the judge have a history of subordinating their judicial decisions to the political will of the regime.

A sourced linked to the Judicial Branch said that although the crime for which the priests are accused is unknown, at least “they came out of the legal limbo in which they were almost in the condition of forced disappearance.”

It is presumed, he continued, that they will be accused of crimes of altering the constitutional or public order, in which the State is directly the victim, but the details are still unknown.

Prosecutor and judge with a history of repression

The accusation was filed on September 21 by prosecutor Manuel de Jesus Rugama, who has stood out for his persecution of political prisoners, as well as judge Nalia Ubeda Obando, of the Fifth Criminal District Court of Managua. Both are part of the judicial machinery, made up of 15 officials who have materialized the judicial fabrications that have sent hundreds of Nicaraguans to prison for political reasons. Currently 205 political prisoners are being held in different prisons.

The presidential couple maintain a sustained defamatory campaign against the Catholic Church, which has denounced the human rights abuses committed by Ortega and his repressive machinery since 2018. In turn, the regime, without evidence, accuses the Church of being coup mongers.

The frontal attack against the Church has been stepped up since May with the persecution of Alvarez, a well-regarded human rights defender, when he was besieged in a parish he was visiting in Managua. Alvarez is the first bishop arrested since Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007.

In June, the regime imprisoned the priest Manuel Garcia of Nandaime, the following month Monsignor Leonardo Urbina of Boaco and afterwards Oscar Benavidez, a priest of the Dioceses of Matagalpa who worked in Mulukuku. They are held under a supposed investigation without specifying charges.

Ortega also expelled the Apostolic Nuncio in an act that was painful for the Vatican, closed seven radio stations of the Dioceses of Matagalpa and expelled the Missionaries of Charity.

“In Nicaragua the news is clear. There is dialogue. There has been talks with the Government. There is dialogue, but this does not mean approval or disapproval of all that the Government does,” said Pope Francis on September 15.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and  translated by Havana Times

Octavio Enríquez

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