Nicaraguan Priest Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

for “threatening” those who call him “murderer”

Manuel Salvador Garcia, parish priest of the Jesus of Nazareth Church in Nandaime, has been a victim of a defamatory campaign by pro-government media.  Photo: Taken from social networks.

The priest has another accusation of “physical violence in concurrence with psychological violence,” from Martha Rivas, now also imprisoned after retracting her charge.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – A local judge in Nandaime, Nicaragua Jaime Aguilar, sentenced priest Manuel Salvador Garcia Rodriguez to two years in prison, for the alleged crime of threatening five people with a weapon; making him the first priest to be imprisoned by Daniel Ortega’s regime that increases its persecution against the Catholic Church.

The sentencing against the priest was held on June 22, when the priest was transferred to Granada’s Penitentiary System, where he will remain in prison, as the court ruling establishes.

The priest was accused of this crime after on the night of May 30, he came out to the atrium of the Jesus of Nazareth church of Nandaime, Granada, with a machete in hand in a defensive attitude before a group of people who shouted insults such as “murderer.”

Since his arrest, last June 2, it was learned that he was accused of “physical violence in concurrence with psychological violence” against Martha Candelaria Rivas Hernández, the supposed victim, whom the police also arrested after she refused to sign the complaint and denied the intentional assault.

In a record time of 21 days, the judge sentenced the priest to the maximum sentence of two years in prison and a hefty fine.

Rivas Hernandez, the alleged victim of the priest, told the judge that the quarrel with residents happened after her daughter came out of the church asking for help because, accidentally, the priest hit her with a padlock in her right eye. The individuals, from outside the church, kept insulting the priest while recording a video, which was later used by the government propaganda in a smear campaign against Garcia.

According to the sentence, the priest is the “only direct perpetrator criminally responsible for the crime of threatening” Derek Santiago Rueda, Manuel Alfredo Lopez Torrez, Kevin Jose Espinoza Rueda, Lester Javier Chavarria Miranda and Cristhian David Torrez Romero, these last two gave statements to government media after what happened with the priest.

In the document obtained by Confidencial, but which has not yet been published in the Judicial system, they point out that “the action of threatening with a machete in hand and banging it against the church’s fence —in reference to the priest’s alleged action— resulted in five people being threatened in regrettable circumstances.”

So far, neither the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua nor the Diocese of Granada have spoken on the priest’s case.

From victim to defendant

Judge Maria Jose Zapata, of a Local Criminal Court of Granada, ordered pre-trial detention against Martha Candelaria Rivas, 44, on June 21, four days after she retracted her accusation against the priest.

Rivas Hernandez was charged with “false testimony” by the Public Ministry. The now accused could face imprisonment with a sentence ranging from three to five years.

The woman changed some aspects related to the first version of the facts, for which the priest was arrested on June 2, accused of “physical violence in concurrence with psychological violence.”

The alleged victim assured that everything was an “accident and that is why I did not sign the complaint.” She said that on May 30, 2022, she went to the Nandaime church, accompanied by two of her children, both minors. According to her, after dinner, her children went to watch television, while she and the priest “shared a few drinks.”

She indicated that the priest apologized for accidently striking her and even put a towel on her with chamomile. Later they heard a disturbance outside, and it was then when the priest went out to the street with a machete, in a sequence of images used by the official media to project him as violent.

The woman’s daughter told the judge that she was never present when the alleged assault took place and only learned of it when her mother told her. “We went to visit the priest at the church. I saw her beaten and out of despair I went out and asked for help and told them to call the Police and they told me they did not have the number. Then two shots were heard, and Father Manuel came out with a machete,” narrated the young woman.

The alleged victim and now accused, also clarified that the “intimate friendship” that she had said she had with the priest referred to “the fact that I used to go there to tell him my things,” she told the judge. In a forceful manner, the woman said that she was not a partner “of Father Manuel.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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