Nicaragua’s prosecutors presented accusations against imprisoned former presidential candidates Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro and Arturo Cruz. Five other opposition leaders, also in jail, received the same charge.
By Octavio Enriquez (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Former presidential hopefuls Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro and Arturo Cruz, together with five other opposition leaders, were formally accused on Thursday, August 26. According to a statement from the Prosecution, the eight were charged with the catch-all authoring of a “conspiracy to undermine the national integrity.” The Prosecutor’s Office, which issued the accusation, is controlled by Daniel Ortega, as is the entire Nicaraguan Justice System.
The malicious accusation was accepted at a hearing where neither the independent press nor the accused parties’ lawyers were allowed access. At the same hearing, it was determined that five others would be processed for the same allegations: former assistant foreign minister Jose Bernard Pallais; former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise Jose Adan Aguerri; Violeta Granera and Tamara Davila, both leaders of the opposition Blue and White National Unity; and – in absentia – political analyst Manuel Orozco Ramirez, who currently directs the Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization in Washington D.C.
According to Article 410 of Nicaragua’s Criminal Code, which was cited in the Prosecution’s statement, the accused could be sentenced to 10 – 15 years in prison.
During the secret hearing, the accused were remanded to custody, although they already were in jail, where they’ve been held incommunicado for weeks. A new arrest warrant was put out for Manuel Orozco, who’s out of the country and thus not currently in jail.
Ana Lucia Alvarez, Tamara Davila’s sister, denounced on Twitter that “none of the lawyers the families have chosen to defend the political prisoners were notified of the supposed preliminary hearing.”
She added that the charges against the political prisoners, “remain invisible in the Court’s online information system, even though the hearing was supposedly held yesterday.”
Ana Lucia noted that these actions by the Judicial powers show: “a clear intention to continue hiding information and impeding the right to defense,” which, by law, the prisoners’ relatives have.
Cristiana Chamorro the first to be accused
The new accusation came one day after the regime broadened the accusation against former presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios. Chamorro has been accused of money laundering while directing the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. The legal process against Chamorro and others linked to the Foundation has been plagued with irregularities. Lawyers have denounced that they haven’t even been permitted to speak with their clients, nor review the case files.
The Prosecution then extended the false charges filed against Cristiana Chamorro to two of her brothers – Pedro Joaquin and Carlos Fernando Chamorro Barrios. The latter directs the digital and television news site Confidencial. The regime is accusing him of laundering Foundation assets, although he has no economic ties with the Violeta Chamorro Foundation. The journalist has denounced the political trial as an attempt to silence the independent press.
The regime’s new wave of repression is happening at a moment when the 90 days the authorities gave for investigating the jailed opposition figures have not yet ended. All were arbitrarily abducted during the latest repressive phase that Ortega began at the end of May, aimed at eliminating his political competition for November’s scheduled elections. Held incommunicado, they are considered under “forced disappearance” by Amnesty International. It’s now widely agreed that the regime’s actions eliminated any legitimacy that these elections might have had.
In the context of the electoral process, the Nicaraguan authorities have arrested seven former presidential candidates. Aside from the four mentioned above – Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro – opposition candidates Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena and Noel Vidaurre are currently in prison, while the regime “investigates” them for alleged treason.
The National Police, whose chief, Francisco Diaz, shares family ties with President Daniel Ortega, have also abducted one former foreign minister; two former assistant foreign ministers; one ex-ambassador; two dissident former Sandinista guerrillas; a business leader; a banker; a former first lady; and six opposition leaders.
They have also imprisoned two student leaders, two rural leaders, a female human rights lawyer, a political analyst specializing in political and electoral systems, a journalist, a sports commentator, two former workers with an NGO, and Cristiana Chamorro’s former driver.
Two others who formerly announced interest in running for president in an opposition primary – María Asunción Moreno and former Contra leader Luis Fley – later fled Nicaragua, allegedly for security reasons.
The Police base their arrests on the catch-all “Law for the Defense of the People’s Right to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace”, popularly known as the “Sovereignty Law”. This law was steamrolled through Nicaragua’s FSLN-dominated National Assembly last December.
The controversial law establishes a category known as “traitors to the nation”, who are then inhibited from opting for public office as well as being jailed. Many have also had their homes ransacked by the police.
[Editor’s Note: On Friday August 27 two more of the imprisoned opposition leaders, Dora María Tellez and Ana Margarita Vigil, were accused in a secret hearing of “conspiracy,” and like the others, will remain in prison indefinitely.]