Angel and Jose Sequeira Zamora were persecuted for making blue and white accessories and for participating in the protests against Ortega.
By Ana Lucia Cruz (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – “You’re not a political prisoner, you’re a criminal!” “You’re going to rot in jail.” “No one’s going to get you out of here.” These are some of the phrases with which the guards at the “Jorge Navarro” National Penitentiary have repeatedly tormented Angel de Jesus and Jose Gadiel Sequeira Zamora, respectively 19 and 28 years old. The brothers have faced these taunts now for nine months.
A relative of these political prisoners assures that their arrest was “retaliation” from Ortega’s Sandinista Front. This family member said that William Espana, an officer at the Seventh District Police Station in Managua ordered their capture. The reason: accusing the family of “no longer working for the party”.
On November 20, 2019, Angel de Jesus and Jose Gadiel left their house around 7:30 in the morning. Both worked at a small business near the Polytechnic University in Managua, where they did machine embroidery. There work included production of the controversial “vandal” t-shirts, caps or bandanas. These were used during the protests against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
That morning, though, before arriving at work, Jose Gadiel updated his status on Whatsapp noting he was being followed by some figures on motorcycles. “If anything should happen to me, blame the dictatorship,” the now political prisoner wrote.
Hours later, one of the Sequeira brothers’ relatives noticed Jose Gadiel’s status on the app. He also saw several missed calls from Angel. Hours previously Angel tried to warn about the police presence in the vicinity of the shop. The relative decided to call the younger brother and managed to communicate with him around 10:30 in the morning.
“Sister, sister, the police are looking for me. A neighborhood boy told me they were asking about me. They’re here, they’re here now, sister,” were Angel’s last words before the Police took away his cell phone. They then dragged him to their pick-up truck.
When he saw his younger brother being arrested, Jose Gadiel threw himself repeatedly at the patrol car. He hoped they’d take him too, but the officers threatened him until he got down.
According to the Sequeira’s relatives, the owner of the business also questioned the police officers. He asked why they were taking one of their workers. The Police responded “for being a ‘vandal’” [the term Rosario Murillo uses for protesters]. Meanwhile the officers stole four t-shirts with the national seal embroidered on them. They were on order by members of a local church.
Family members also noted that while Angel was still in the back of the pick-up, one of the officers dialed an official named William Espana and asked him: “Do I take them in or do I leave them somewhere? Are they still working with the party?”
These questions, note the relatives of the Sequeira brothers, were a clear indication that the case is political. There were no other motives. What they were evaluating was whether the youth were participating in the protests. Likewise, the fact that their father “had stopped working for the Sandinista Front”. Even though he stopped before the 2018 protests.
The second detention: “Daniel Ortega is your god”
Jose Gadiel’s arrest came three hours later in the District Seven Police station. The older Sequeira brother first went home to tell his wife. Later he went to look for his brother at the District Seven police station.
“We got to the station and they wouldn’t tell us anything. But Gadiel recognized the officers from the operation [to detain Angel]. We began to ask them why they arrested him. One who we knew as Felix, then ordered them to arrest Gadiel too. In his complaints he had accused them: “of having Daniel Ortega as a God”, stated the Sequeira brothers’ relative.
While Jose Gadiel was being dragged in, the other relatives were then surrounded by riot squad agents. They threatened to detain the family members who came to ask for information on the now political detainees.
Once in the hands of the police, both brothers were beaten and interrogated until they were exhausted. “They beat them however they wanted. They put their boots on their heads and asked them where their God was now. The officers assured them that they’d rot in jail,” denounced the family member.
The kangaroo court
The Sequeira brothers were taken to trial three days after their arrest, on November 23, 2019. Their families weren’t notified. Attorney Julio Montenegro, the brothers’ lawyer, explained that the case had “various anomalies”. Firstly, they were taken before a judge with an “assigned” court lawyer. They hadn’t been allowed to speak with their family members to get a private attorney.
In addition, Montenegro noted that there were a number of “inconsistencies” in the accusation itself. The officers said both arrests took place seven blocks north of the “Ivan Montenegro” market. Supposedly at a place where drugs were sold. This, despite the fact that one was detained at his workplace and the other at the District Seven Police Station.
Montenegro pointed out that both young men complained that once they were at the Directorate of Judicial Assistance – better known as the El Chipote jail – they were forced to take the substances and put them with their belongings. Photos were then taken. Montenegro considered this “planting evidence”.
The lawyer also criticized the witnesses for the Prosecution, whose testimonies had no coherence. They didn’t identify who was who among the accused and they didn’t describe the zone where the brothers were. They couldn’t respond coherently to questioning.
The two protestors were found guilty of organized crime and drug trafficking. They were sentenced on July 30, 2019, to twenty-two years in jail and a hefty fine.
On August 19, Montenegro introduced an appeal. However, he said the case held all the elements for the Public Prosecutor’s office to overlook it.
Freedom demanded for the Sequeira brothers
The brothers’ family have suffered during their nine months in prison. It’s hard knowing the inhumane conditions and mistreatment their loved ones are being subjected to.
“In the “La Modelo” prison, they haven’t been beaten, but are constantly sick from the unhealthy conditions, the contaminated water. They have skin infections, stomach and intestinal difficulties, and don’t receive medical attention. It’s also hard to get medicine to them,” denounced one of the family members that spoke with Confidencial.
The siblings of the two political prisoners demand that they be released, because they’re “honest and hard-working people”. Their boss sent a letter demonstrating that they had been working for her. The older one for twelve years and the younger one for two years. But none of that was taken into account.”
Sequeira’s loved ones maintain the brothers “only crime was to be part of the protests.” They had always warned them of the risks they were running by actively opposing the Ortega regime.
“We always told them not to go, that ‘look, they’re killing people’. We said they weren’t going to go easy on them if they managed to grab them. But they were determined to fight against the injustices, and they did so,” the relative declared. He added: “We trust in our lawyer, the One Above. He who sees everything, who sees these injustices and is going to free them.”