“An act of hate and terror”
Police illegally raided the house of “Radio Dario” director Anibal Toruño in Leon. Agents warned that they seek to incriminate him for drug trafficking.
By Cindy Regidor (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – At 3:40 pm on January 4th, two police patrol vehicles arrived at the home of Anibal Toruño. About a dozen narcotics and riot squad agents with drug-sniffing dogs got out and forced their way inside. In doing so, the agents destroyed the iron gate across the door and the front door itself.
Anibal Toruño is the director of “Radio Dario”, an independent radio station in Leon. The business owner himself, was elsewhere, working in the offices of the radio station.
Toruño affirmed that the police entered with no previous warning and no legal order. They searched the house, room by room, asking which bedroom was Anibal’s. The housekeeper pointed it out to them and asked the reason for the raid. They answered her saying they were looking for drugs.
“When the dog was in the room, she told the agents she was afraid of the dog,” Toruño told reporters. “The one who appeared to be the leader responded: ‘The one you should be afraid of is Anibal Toruño. He’s involved in drug trafficking.’”
“They didn’t leave any notifications, and we don’t know if they took anything. It was totally overwhelming,” Toruño added.
This event was unprecedented, even within the scope of recent attacks on the independent media in Nicaragua.
Anibal Toruño already suffered the burning down of the “Radio Dario” installations in 2018. There’d also been a December 2018 raid on the new installations of the radio station. The station has remained under constant police surveillance, and Toruño himself has received multiple death threats. The latter forced him to go into exile for nine months in 2019. However, this is the first time they invaded his home, with the additional threat of incriminating him in narcotics trafficking.
“It’s a pattern of persecution. This is an escalation. They hadn’t done this to the media before,” observed Toruño. He was referring to the strategy that the Ortega-Murillo regime has implemented since 2019. They’ve repeatedly searched the homes of released political prisoners and opposition figures.
In 2018, the Police raided the home of journalist and news director Lucia Pineda from the 100% Noticias television station. This was after they’d abducted her from the station. She was then jailed for six months, and accused of “provocation, planning and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts”. This time, Toruño was left with the “warning” that he could be accused of a common crime.
“From this government, anything could be expected. The only thing left us is public denunciation and reaffirming our right to defend freedom of expression. We’re going to continue doing so, despite the risks it implies,” Toruño stated. He’s received precautionary protective measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR). These were granted him precisely because of the risks he runs. He and his team of journalists have suffered constant attacks from government sympathizers, the police, and Ortega’s paramilitary.
An act of hate and terror
Local human rights organizations condemned the police action. The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center emphasized: “This violates the right to private property and the presumption of innocence. It also threatens the freedom and personal integrity of Toruño and his family.”
The “Nicaragua Nunca +” [“Nicaragua Never Again”] Human Rights Collective condemned the political persecution and arbitrary raid. They noted that it was an attack on “one who works as an independent journalist, raising his voice to denounce the violations of human rights and basic freedoms.”
Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression at the IACHR, expressed his solidarity with Toruño. “Authoritarian regimes reflect each other in their obsession to overrun private lives, to seed fear and monopolize public debate,” he posted.
“We’re blameless people. All we have are microphones, cameras and Hertzian waves. It’s an act of hate and terror,” stated Toruño. He had returned from exile in August 2019 to continue exercising his profession in the radio his father founded. Despite this new attack, he stated that he wouldn’t go back into exile. “I plan to continue fighting in Leon, for the entire nation,” he affirmed.
Beginning in 2018, when the government brutally repressed the massive citizen protests, Nicaragua has been engulfed in crisis. From that time on, the media and independent journalists have been under constant attack from the current regime.
The government confiscated the studios/buildings belonging to the 100% Noticias channel and Confidencial. Their programs, including Esta Semana, Confidencial’s weekly news roundup, have been censored on national television. Channel 12, one of the few television stations not controlled by the Ortega-Murillo family, has also been under attack. Their assets have been seized, and it’s been hit with a back-tax bill of US $607,000, due to “additional tax assessment”.