Cristiana Chamorro’s Lawyer Fears a “Secret” Hearing

Cristiana Chamorro speaking to the press on April 29th.

Presidential candidate has more than 72 hours under house arrest, incommunicado, and is “totally defenseless.”

By Ivette Munguía (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Since the presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios was placed under house arrest and the police raided and occupied her home, on June 2, neighbors have noticed several people unconnected to the Police arriving at the property and presumably one of them was the judge Karen Chavarria, whose photographs circulates on social networks.

Chavarria, from a Managua Criminal Court, is the one judge who issued the house arrest order against Chamorro, who is accused of the crimes of “abusive administration and misrepresentation, concurrently with money, assets and capital goods laundering” through the defunct Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), which she led until last February.

Given the alert from the neighbors, Chamorro’s defense lawyer, Orieta Benavidez, said she is “fearful that some procedure, some hearing could be carried out in a secret manner,” which would violate the principle of transparency in the judicial process.

Benavidez was appointed as Chamorro’s defense lawyer since May 21, the first time she went to testify to the Public Ministry. However, the authorities have not allowed her to meet with her client and she only sees pieces of information published on the webpage of the Judicial Branch. It was in this way that she learned that judge Chavarria authorized that a computer expert to review all the information contained in the candidate’s phones and computers.

Police raids without warrant

Reviewing the webpage of the Judicial Branch “I found a certificate of validation,” said the lawyer. This certificate of validation “is a response to a request made by the head of the National Police, (Luis) Perez Olivas, where he asks the judiciary to validate the raid that the Police carried out on June 2nd at Chamorro’s home.”

The validation requested by Chief Perez Olivas, “means that the search warrant was not issued by the judge but was executed directly by the National Police,” the lawyer assessed. However, at the time that the judge issues the validation certificate “it is automatically validating what the Police did,” she continued.

According to the defense lawyer, there are so many violations of Chamorro’s rights, who at this moment is “totally defenseless.”

The candidate “is confined in her home, she cannot leave, no one can enter, she does not have access to communicate with family or friends, she has no right to any communication with her lawyer, which is me.  It is a situation that has her completely deprived of her rights,” Benavidez said.

A similar situation is being experienced by the former finance officer of the FVBCH, Walter Gomez and former accountant Marcos Fletes, who are being investigated for the same case and were arrested on May 28 and since then their relatives and lawyers have not been able to communicate with them.

According to Benavidez, the arbitrariness in the case “distorts” the measure of house arrest against Chamorro, because this should have been a measure imposed during a court hearing, which must be public and with the presence of the defense lawyer. Furthermore, “a house arrest never means the total deprivation of communication of the accused person, neither with her defense lawyer or with her relatives,” she stressed.

Documenting the abuses

Although the lawyer acknowledges that there is very little she can do for candidate Chamorro while the authorities do not allow her to communicate with her, she argued that “regardless of the situation we are documenting the abuses” against my client.

Benavidez also pointed out if a secret hearing were held against Chamorro, it would lack legality because of the principle of notification, the right to defense and the presumption of innocence would all be violated.

Simultaneous to the judicial process against Chamorro, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo de facto disqualified her participation as an opposition presidential candidate.

Through another Criminal Court, on June 1, the regime ordered the disqualification of Chamorro “from holding public office, for not being in full enjoyment of her civil and political rights, because she is in a criminal investigative process.”

National legal experts have warned that disqualification should only be imposed by a final conviction, so the Judicial Branch is violating the right to the presumption of innocence.

Read more from Nicaragua here.