Silenced Nicaraguan Bishop Could Face Long Years in Prison

Daniel Ortega’s prosecutor accuses Rolando Alvarez of “conspiracy” and “cybercrime

Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez was exhibited in court by the government media on Tuesday December 13, 2022. Photo: El19 Digital

After more than 110 days incomunicado under house arrest, the Ortega dictatorship showed the religious leader, with evident weight loss.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Ortega justice system accused this Tuesday, December 13, Monsignor Rolando Jose Alvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, for the catch-all crimes of conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity and propagation of false news. These are the same charges for which the dictatorship has condemned more than 40 of its political prisoners.

A judicial authority, whose name was not specified, appointed a public defender for the Nicaraguan bishop, decreed him to remain under house arrest and scheduled an initial hearing for January 10, 2023, according to the Press Office of the Judicial Complex of Managua, through a public statement.

After 116 days under house arrest, the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo showed the religious leader in court with evident weight loss. The Ortega propaganda media published two photographs of Alvarez in the Court..

Alvarez, 56, becomes the first bishop to be arrested and charged since Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007.

The Catholic leader was kidnapped on August 19, by police agents from the curia of Matagalpa along with four priests, two seminarians and a cameraman, after 15 days confined there.

At the time, the Nicaraguan Police, led by Francisco Díaz, Ortega and Murillo’s in-law, accused the bishop of trying to “organize violent groups”, allegedly “with the purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities”.

Priest Uriel Vallejos, “fugitive from justice”

In the same accusation against Alvarez, the regime included the exiled priest Uriel Antonio Vallejos, who was called a “fugitive from justice” and a warrant was sent to Interpol for his capture.

The priest was besieged by the Ortega police inside his parish temple in Sébaco for three days last August. 

On the morning of August 4, the police transferred him to the Nuestra Señora de Fátima seminary in Managua, and ordered him not to leave, revealed the priest. He believes that the intention of the agents was not only to confiscate the equipment of Radio Católica in Sebaco – which he denounced on social networks – but “to take me prisoner to the El Chipote jail,” said Vallejos. 

Rolando Alvarez is the latest Catholic figure accused by Ortega’s justice system. Ortega has imprisoned, since last June, ten priests of the Catholic Church. The first was the priest Manuel Garcia Rodriguez, convicted for allegedly beating a woman; the second, Monsignor Jose Leonardo Urbina, convicted for the alleged crime of sexual abuse and minor psychological injuries to the detriment of a 14 year old minor.

The third is the priest Oscar Benavidez, currently under investigation for ninety days by the Attorney General’s Office due to a “phantom” crime, but of which the State of Nicaragua recognizes itself as “victim and offended”.

They were joined by priests Jose Luis Diaz and Sadiel Eugarrios, first and second vicar of the San Pedro Cathedral, respectively; Ramiro Tijerino, rector of the Universidad Juan Pablo II and in charge of the San Juan Bautista parish; priest Raul González and seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melkin Sequeira. This group accompanied Monsignor Alvarez during the 15 days that they remained under siege by dozens of riot police in the parish house of the Diocese of Matagalpa.

Last October, the regime kidnapped the priest Enrique Martínez Gamboa, 64 years old, and then charged him with the alleged crime of conspiracy and propagation of false news.

Silencing Bishop Alvarez

Bishop Alvarez is one of the most critical voices within the Catholic hierarchy against the government of Daniel Ortega. His pastoral ministry focused on defending human rights and denouncing the violations, injustices, abuse of power, corruption and authoritarianism prevailing in Ortega’s government.

His voice traveled through remote communities in the north of the country, where they still resent the kidnapping of their pastor and six religious persons, accused of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “propagation of false news”. 

With his confinement “they seek to silence him and out of the public sphere… the extortion is that he should shut up politically speaking”, explained Yader Morazán, a specialist in law.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has remained silent on the case of Monsignor Alvarez. The state of physical and mental health of the religious leader is not known, or whether he has had access to a medical examination and in what housing conditions he is in. 

On November 23, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) urged the Catholic hierarchy to speak out on the situation of Alvarez. The organization assured that the bishop had suffered a fall -without specifying the seriousness-, that he was ill and that he was not with his family.

*With information from EFE news agency.

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