among the first arbitrary arrests of 2023
Martha Ubilla, Javier Espinoza, Thelma Vanegas and Jose Ricardo Muñoz Lopez are the latest political prisoners of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
HAVANA TIMES – Martha del Socorro Ubilla, 60, and with two sons who’ve been political prisoners, is now herself under arrest, charged with an undisclosed crime. Her son, Marvin Castellon Ubilla is currently in prison, while a second son, Marlon Castellon Ubilla, was released in December 2021.
Police took Ubilla from her home in the early morning of January 11. Hours later, three other political opponents of the regime were also taken into police custody: Javier Espinoza, who managed the sound systems during the 2018 protests, Thelma Vanegas and Jose Ricardo Muñoz Lopez. The four have now joined the growing list of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s political prisoners.
The four were criminally charged by prosecutor Luis Carlos Mongalo Roblero for supposedly committing a crime. Unfortunately, the crime they’re being accused of was omitted from the electronic court hearings record – the only information allowed the public. The only known factor is that the Nicaraguan State and Nicaraguan society appear as the “victim or offended party.”
According to the same electronic court records, the accusation was formalized on January 13th, and the case is based in the Fifth District Criminal Court in Managua, under presiding judge Nalia Nadezhda Ubeda Obando.
Earlier on January 13, before they learned of the pending accusation, Martha Ubilla’s family members had filed a habeas corpus petition, which was ruled “inadmissible” by the Managua Appeals Court on January 16.
Not the first detention for Martha Ubilla
In 2018 and again in 2020, Martha Ubilla became the victim of repeated threats, harassment and surveillance from government and paramilitaries. The police harassment began when her sons, Marlon Castellon Ubilla and Marvin Castellon Ubilla were imprisoned for having participated in anti-government protests.
In July 2018, she was held for 15 days in Managua’s El Chipote jail, where she suffered “physical and psychological violence,” according to testimony she later gave the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.
She was also subjected to hostile acts – including strip-searches, attempts to touch her private parts, and verbal harassment – when she visited her sons at the “Jorge Navarro” penitentiary.
Beginning in 2020, police and paramilitary mounted a constant presence around the Castellon Ubilla residence, keeping tabs on and harassing the family. In October of that year, Ms. Ubilla was held for several hours at the National Penitentiary Center, where she had gone to leave a package for her son Marvin Castellon.
The harassment directed against Martha Ubilla increased after March 2021, when the regime unleashed a witch-hunt against political opponents and possible presidential candidates, to the point where the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights granted her precautionary measures in February 2022.
One of those being charged alongside Martha Ubilla is Javier Espinoza: known for managing the sound system during the large 2018 marches in Managua. Espinoza was arrested the morning of January 11. This is the second time that Espinoza, son of union leader Jose Espinoza, has been detained. The first was on September 16, 2018, when police took him from his home in Managua’s Monsignor Lezcano neighborhood. On that occasion, Javier Espinoza was released after three days and two nights in the El Chipote jail.
On January 9, teacher Juan Bautista Guevara, 46, was detained. However, he was released 10 hours later. Relatives of the group detained on January 11 had hoped something similar would occur in these cases, but it didn’t.
Up until December 2022, the regime led by Danie Ortega and Rosario Murillo was holding 235 political prisoners in the country’s different jail and prison centers. Daniel Ortega made it clear in his first speech of 2023, marking the installation of the new legislative session, that he has no intention of releasing these political prisoners, despite the many calls for their liberation.
Instead, Ortega asserted that “not even life in prison” could pay for the damage the massive protests of 2018 produced in Nicaragua. Ortega once again termed the largely peaceful citizen uprising an “attempted coup d’etat,” this time also describing it as “bloody”.