Daniel Ortega’s judges have been merciless with peasant leaders
“The conviction is absurd” and “has no comparison in our legal history,” says defense lawyer Julio Montenegro
HAVANA TIMES – Medardo Mairena, anti-canal peasant leader and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, received a 216-year prison sentence on Monday for opposing the Ortega-Murillo government.
“The sentencing of peasant leaders Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena and Orlando Icabalceta is barbaric, illegal and unjust. Without their freedom and that of all political prisoners, no dialogue can move forward,” wrote writer and former Vice President of Nicaragua, Sergio Ramirez.
Criminal Court Judge Edgard Altamirano, imposed a penalty of 216 years in prison on Mairena for terrorism and other [fabricated] crimes, as confirmed by the Permanent Commission of Human Rights (CPDH).
Altamirano also sentenced Pedro Mena to 210 years in prison and Orlando Icabalceta to 159 years and 3 months. Both are peasant leaders who, along with Mairena, participated in the anti-canal law protests since 2013.
“The sentences are ridiculous, they are even three times what the Prosecutor’s Office requested, which was 73 and 63 years, although the maximum penalty in the country is 30 years,” said defense lawyer Julio Montenegro, who also said that he was not summoned by judge Altamirano to attend the sentencing hearing.
Montenegro told Confidencial that “the conviction is absurd” and “has no legal comparison in our legal history.”
In addition, Montenegro said they did not give him a copy of the sentence, alleging that it was not yet in the books. However, he said he will file an appeal, even if justice is controlled by the Government.
The peasant leaders were sentenced on Monday for the crimes of terrorism, aggravated robbery, aggravated damages, kidnapping and obstruction of public services.
On December 18, when the three campesinos were found guilty, Montenegro noted that the judge didn’t even bother to include the final arguments of the case, because he had allegedly drafted the ruling, before the hearing began.
The peasant leaders, arrested on July 13, are members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, the Government’s counterpart in the dialogue to overcome the crisis that was suspended indefinitely last July, after pro-government groups attacked the bishops of the Catholic Church, who acted as mediators.
Medardo Mairena is confined to the “El Infiernillo” (Little Hell), a maximum security area of the “La Modelo” prison system, in Tipitapa, Managua. In this cell are also Pedro Mena and Silvio Pineda, political prisoners of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The peasant leaders are accused of the murder of four officers in Morrito, Rio San Juan; of terrorism and other crimes. Pineda was included in the same case as an “accomplice.”
“El Infiernillo” is a dark place, where there are cockroaches, mosquitoes, ticks, scorpions, and is assigned to extremely dangerous inmates. Everyone uses the same concrete seat as a toilet, the stench is unbearable. The prisoners do not leave their dungeon during the day or at night. They are guarded all the time and only see the sunlight when they are moved to the court complex.
Back in September, Mairena denounced through a letter, being a victim of “inhumane” treatment by the authorities, since he was arrested in mid-July, accused of terrorism in the midst of the sociopolitical crisis.
Mena, in addition, has problems due to chronic illnesses because the authorities took away his medication when he was arrested, according to the complaint read at the headquarters of the humanitarian organization Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH).
The health condition of Mairena and Mena is another pending issue. In November, Montenegro assured that the peasant leaders had several ailments, but the prison system had not registered them or notified the courts on the condition of the prisoners, and their defense cannot make the appropriate requests to address the illnesses of the accused.
Montenegro has reported that the prison system carries out “simulations” of medical checkups of political prisoners. “They take people out, put them on a stretcher, pretend that they are being attended, take photographs, videos and then they are returned to their normal state,” affirms the CPDH lawyer.