Political Trial Begins against Cristiana Chamorro and Colleagues

for their work with the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation

Eight months after the first hearing, lawyer Yader Morazán assures that “the process expired and also the pre-trial detention measure.”

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Judge Luden Martín Quiroz begins this Thursday, March 3, in El Chipote prison, the trial against former presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, her brother Pedro Joaquín, two former officials of the now closed Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH) and a driver.

Cristiana Chamorro, Walter Gomez and Marcos Fletes, are charged with the alleged crimes of money laundering, abusive management, moral turpitude, embezzlement and improper retention. Former deputy Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, ex-vice president of the FVBCH is charged with alleged abusive management, moral turpitude, embezzlement and improper retention; and driver Pedro Vasquez is charged with the crime of collaborating in money laundering.

The defense lawyers assured that the trial, which will be held behind closed doors, could last two weeks, due to the documentation accumulated by the authorities for each one of the five accused, and due to the amount of evidence that the defense plans to present.

In addition to the police witnesses routinely summoned by the Prosecutor’s Office, as in the cases of other political prisoners, the judicial hearing has summoned journalists and media representatives beneficiaries of FVBCH donations as alleged “witnesses.”

The decision to initiate this political trial occurs two months after the deadline for sentencing expired, a serious procedural situation that adds to a series of irregularities used by the regime to inhibit the political aspirations of the former president of the Foundation and to intimidate at least 60 journalist who were summoned last year to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Attorney Yader Morazan affirmed that the “legal clock” began to run from June 3, 2021, when the first hearing against Chamorro Barrios was held, to whom the Police imposed a house arrest regime.

The country’s procedural laws establish a maximum term of six months from the initial hearing. That is what happens when we are dealing with an investigation of “complex cases,” which doubles the procedural time limit. However, with the FVBCH investigation, this Thursday marks eight months since the first hearing.

Since the hearing last June, began a process characterized by judicial secrecy, intimidation, lack of guarantees for the defendants, and secret hearings held in the El Chipote prison. Likewise, on several occasions Ortega projected a conviction, insulting the political prisoners by calling them last November “sons of bitches of imperialism.”

“When the process expires, everything that it generates ceases, such as the precautionary measure of pre-trial imprisonment for all those involved in the same case,” explained Morazan.

February: month of conviction of political prisoners

The reactivation of the FVBCH case comes a month after the beginning of convictions of political prisoners in Nicaragua. A machinery under the control of the Government party, made up of 15 officials, including judges, prosecutors, and police agents, has so far sentenced more than twenty political prisoners, almost all convicted for allegedly committing the crime of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” or for allegedly “propagating fake news.”

Cristiana Chamorro was arrested on June 2 last year. She was charged for the alleged crimes of “abusive management and money laundering,” after a state report pointed out that the Foundation allegedly transferred funds to strengthen the media between 2017-2020 to individuals and organizations that sought “to destabilize the good progress of the economic and social development of the country.”

The main allegation of the indictment is that the FVBCH allegedly received from donors 150 million cordobas (4.2 million USD) between 2015 and 2019, but they had 190 million cordobas in the banking system.

The main donor of the FVBCH, the United States Agency for International Development (AID), denied since May 27, 2021, that they had found “evidence of money laundering,” as the regime pointed out. Among the beneficiaries of the alleged destabilization of the Nicaraguan Executive, the Prosecutor’s Office listed 13 independent communication media, four non-governmental organizations and seven journalists.

The process allowed for the inhibition of candidate Cristiana Chamorro and another six presidential hopefuls and, in this way, (Ortega) guaranteed his fourth consecutive term. The electoral farce earned him international rejection.

Another one of the defendants is Cristiana’s brother, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, arrested by the Police last June 26 for allegedly committing “acts to undermine the country’s sovereignty,” after giving an interview in which he had also expressed his presidential aspirations. Afterwards, he was charged for the alleged crimes of “abusive management, embezzlement and improper retention” in relation to the FVBCH case.

The ordeal of the defendants in the FVBCH trial began in May last year. The first captured were Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes, former finance officer and former accountant of the FVBCH, on the 29th of that month, but the driver of Cristiana Chamorro, Pedro Vasquez, is also under arrest.

Director of Confidencial charged in absentia

Under the same case the director of Confidencial, Carlos Fernando Chamorro was changed in absentia for the alleged crimes of abusive management, embezzlement and improper retention and also money laundering. This, despite the fact that neither Chamorro nor Confidencial has any legal, economic or institutional link with the FVBCH.

The journalist is in exile, for the second time since June 2021, and has been the victim of the confiscation of the media outlet’s offices since 2018, the second police raid against a temporary Confidencial office on May 20, 2021, and the forced entry of his home on June 21 last year.

Also charged in absentia are former FVBCH workers Ana Elisa Martinez, Lourdes Arróliga, Guillermo Medrano and Emma Marina Lopez.

“That file must be separated, because for the uncaught individuals the chronometer does not run. The other way in which the process does not run is when you no longer show up at the second hearing and thus default occurs. Those are the only two ways in which the judges can attribute a file,” explained attorney Yader Morazán.

The lawyer explained that the term for maximum deadline of a process to dictate a sentence is one of ten causes for the “extinction of the criminal action” to occur and recalled that another one is the statute of limitations, the same one that was alleged to save Daniel Ortega from facing justice in December 2021 when he was accused of rape by his stepdaughter Zoilamerica Narvaez.

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