HAVANA TIMES – Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who directs the news site Confidencial, was recently forced to seek exile in Costa Rica for the second time. On Wednesday, August 25, he reacted publicly to new charges launched against him by the Nicaraguan justice system. His sister Cristiana and brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro had similar accusations filed against them. All are under investigation, supposedly as part of the charges made against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.
“This is a political trial, and all the political trials are born in El Carmen (the presidential residence / offices). That’s where decisions are made as to who to accuse and how to try them. The Public Prosecutor then has the mission of fabricating crimes and falsifying evidence. After that, the Supreme Court merely issues the guilty verdict and the sentence.” Chamorro made these observations during his online news show, which is transmitted via YouTube.
This week, the Prosecution informed that the accusation against Cristiana Chamorro, formerly the director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, has been broadened to include the supposed crimes of misappropriation and illegal withholding. The same implication was extended to her two brothers – Pedro Joaquin and Carlos Fernando Chamorro – who had no ties to the NGO.
The prosecution also accused former workers with the Violeta Chamorro Foundation of money laundering and other crimes. The Foundation itself discontinued all operations in February 2021, when the Foreign Agents’ Law entered into effect.
Carlos Fernando Chamorro affirmed that the Prosecution, as well as the judges, are repeating the pattern of 2018 and 2019. At that time, more than 700 people were detained, many of them later tried and found guilty of fabricated crimes, in retribution for their participation in antigovernment protests. Among them were journalists Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau.
“Now they’re fabricating new accusations, like money laundering and treason. In the first place, they want to annul any political competition. That’s why my sister, Cristana Chamorro, was imprisoned when she announced her willingness to be a presidential candidate. Then they imprisoned my brother, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, who was in line as an alternate candidate, with five others already in jail,” Chamorro stated.
The journalist noted that this is the first-time criminal charges have ever been lodged against him, even though the Nicaraguan justice system has carried out a “de facto” persecution of him since Ortega returned to power in 2007.
He emphasized that the aim of the accusation is: “to silence a journalist, in an attempt to kill press freedom.”
He recalled that on other occasions when he’s been persecuted for his critical stance towards the Ortega government, “they’ve tried to cover up their actions with illegal maneuvers.”
As an example, Chamorro described what happened in 2018, when the police raided and occupied the building belonging to Confidencial. The police chief, an in-law of Ortega, alleged in Court that they were closing the non-governmental organization CINCO, which had no relation with the television programs Esta Semana and Esta Noche that Chamorro directed.
Once again, on May 20, 2021, when Confidencial’s temporary newsroom was raided and they attempted to link him with the case of the Chamorro Foundation.
“At that time, the supposed process of investigation of the Chamorro Foundation was just beginning, aimed at criminalizing the foundation. I noted that there’s no relation between the foundation and myself. However, even though they have no evidence, they’re trying to fabricate this accusation,” Carlos Chamorro explained.
“There’s a predetermination of guilty here, and they’re just trying to complete the file for the judicial farce,” the journalist affirmed.
A “null and void” legal procedure
Orieta Benevides, Cristiana Chamorro’s lawyer, said that the entire judicial process is “null and void”, since the hearings have been held in secret and the accused has had no access to a defense.
Benevides explained that the only time she was allowed to see Chamorro was on June 8th, one day after she was notified that she’d be responsible for defending the opposition figure. However, up to the present, she hasn’t been allowed to be present at any hearings, nor has she been granted access to the court documents.
“The Prosecution speaks of having held a hearing to broaden the accusation, but upon realizing such a hearing without an attorney, it’s invalid, along with the entire process they’re carrying out. It violates the constitutional rights and the right to a defense. Not only Cristiana’s rights, but those of everyone involved. It then incurs a nullified process, with the results of the same equally null.”
Chamorro’s lawyer affirmed that the hearing against Chamorro doesn’t even appear on the docket of the local court’s online schedules. Nor do the contents of the accusation mentioned in the Prosecution’s statement appear in the online system.
She pointed out that following the broadening of the accusation, the penal process includes several hearings, culminating in the trial phase.
“We don’t concretely know what type of hearing was held, because the record wasn’t even visible digitally. We can assume that it was a special hearing, but we have no certainty, given the impossibility of finding out,” she concluded.