Nicaragua: “Every Minute in the Cells, Their Health Worsens”

Political prisoners’ wives urge their release

Illustration by Juan Garcia / Confidencial

Wives of former presidential hopefuls Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro call urgently for the liberation of the political prisoners, whose lives “are in danger”.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Bertha Valle and Victoria Cardenas are married to Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro respectively. Both men were formerly aspiring candidates for the Nicaraguan presidency, but are now political prisoners. Their wives recently issued an urgent call for their liberation, along with that of all the political prisoners, because their lives “are in danger”.

“We’re very worried about the health of these prisoners. We believe that every moment, every minute they pass in those cells, their health deteriorates at a galloping rate,” Victoria Cardenas expressed in a virtual press conference.

“I fear for the life of my husband, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, and for the rest of those imprisoned,” she stated. The women’s statement followed a “trial” in which Chamorro and Maradiaga, as well as political prisoners Jose Adan Aguerri and Jose Pallais, were declared guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison for the fabricated catch-all crime of “conspiracy to undermine the national integrity”. The same accusation was used to sentence female activists Violeta Granera and Tamara Davila to eight years in prison, and Arturo Cruz, another former presidential hopeful, to nine years.

During the nearly nine months that their husbands have been locked up, Cardenas and Valle – who fled the country to avoid their own arrest – have had no way to communicate with their husbands. That’s a form of torture, not only for the political prisoners themselves, but also for their families. “Their lives are at risk. There are [health] conditions that will become permanent, permanent damage to them, due to the cruel treatment they’re being subjected to as political prisoners,” declared Bertha Valle.

Maradiaga has lost nearly 50 pounds and his cell is in permanent semi-darkness. Meanwhile, Chamorro has lost some 25 pounds and is forced to live under lights that burn day and night. Both are being held with some twenty other prisoners of conscience, all locked up in the El Chipote jail where they’re isolated and held under unsafe conditions.

The notorious squalor of the prisoners’ surroundings “has been intentional on the part of the regime, in order to provoke their physical deterioration. That should alarm us, because it demonstrates clearly the human rights violations suffered by the Nicaraguan political prisoners,” Valle asserted.

Thirty-five violations to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights

For his part, Jared Genser, the international lawyer charged with the defense of Chamorro and Maradiaga, enumerated the principal violations that marked the seven days of closed-door hearings held in El Chipote.

In a detailed report, he noted that the trial “was horrifying, for the quantity as well as the seriousness of the substantive and due process violations exhibited. It demonstrates how the regime led by Daniel Ortega has used its total control of the Police, the Prosecution and the Judicial Power to promote his autocratic interests,” the report states.

The Ortega regime committed 35 violations to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights during the trial. Among the principles violated were: the presumption of innocence; access to a lawyer; the right to cross examen government witnesses, and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under equal conditions; the right to adequate time and means to prepare a defense; and the right to communicate with a lawyer of their choice.

In the report, Genser sums up the arrest, trial, verdict and sentences against Maradiaga and Chamorro as: “the culmination of an eight-months-long Kafkaesque nightmare that began with illegal arrests, including 84 days of enforced disappearance. It’s been characterized by torture, prolonged detention that including being held incommunicado, grave due process violations, and arbitrary detention, all in flagrant violation of the prisoners’ rights under Nicaraguan and international law.”

Bertha Valle stressed that before any process of democratizing the country can be begun, it’s important that the 170 political prisoners in Nicaragua – all unjustly deprived of their freedom – be liberated.   

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