Socialism in Nicaragua strikes again, sentencing four Catholic priests to prison for the alleged crimes of “treason” and spreading “fake news”.
‘Anti-treason’ laws, forced through congress by long-term Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega in 2021, have allowed the far-left extremist government to weaponise the judiciary against political opponents.
Human Rights Watch said that the law opens the door for the socialist regime to squash free speech and fair elections by boxing political opponents in as ‘traitors.’
For Ortega’s regime, treason is, in sum, any word, or deed which seems to undermine the State.
Anything ‘deemed’ offensive to the State, by the State, is considered a crime against the State.
Speech or actions viewed as compromising the stability of Ortega’s socialist reign are denounced as “domestic terrorism.”
Among others, a traitor is vaguely considered to be any person:
“Carrying out acts that undermine independence, sovereignty, and self-determination.”
‘Incites foreign interference in internal affairs, request military interventions.’
‘Demands, praises, and applauds the imposition of sanctions against Nicaragua and its citizens.’
‘And all those who damage the supreme interests of the nation recognised in its legal system.”
Conflating political opposition with “domestic terrorism,” the Ortega regime granted itself a carte blanche permit to imprison anyone it didn’t like.
Paraphrased, a “traitor” — as defined by the Nicaraguan Marxist dictatorship — is any person found to be voicing political opinions which differ from the approved political narrative.
Human Rights Watch rightly considers the law to be in breach of Article 25 of the UNHCR Conventions, to which Nicaragua is a signatory.
Article 25 recognises that ‘every citizen shall have right and opportunity to ‘partake in public affairs freely.’ To ‘vote, be elected, and express themselves freely’ in the political arena.
The four Catholic priests are victims of Ortega’s version of “hate speech” laws.
Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Díaz, Sadiel Eugarrios and Raúl Vega González were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment after a closed trial, where they were defended by a State-appointed lawyer.
Two seminary students, Darvin Leiva and Melkin Centeno, along with Sergio Cárdenas, a cameraman, were also tried, convicted, and sentenced.
Vatican News recounted that the men worked closely with outspoken Ortega critic Rolando Alvarez, the Bishop of Matagalpa, currently under house arrest.
CNA reported that Alvarez is being held on similar charges.
The bishop was arrested in August 2022, after being accused of ‘conspiracy to undermine state security and sovereignty’ as well as for “spreading fake news.”
Leaders in the European Catholic Commission of Bishops asserted that the accusations against the men were false, and said their convictions were politically motivated.
According to Breitbart, Alvarez was charged after Ortega’s wife (and Vice-President) Rosario Murillo ‘accused Álvarez of committing “sins against spirituality” by condemning the communist leadership of the country.’
Adding their voices to the widespread condemnation, Panama-based Central American human rights group OACNUDH declared,
“The jail sentences against six priests and a layman are incompatible with the right to freedom of expression.”
The group then called for their immediate release, asking the state to ‘respect those who express opinions against it.’
Speaking directly to Ortega weaponising “anti-treason laws” against his political opponents, they added that ‘criticism and dissent cannot be crimes.’
Of importance, the August 2022 arrest of Alvarez, among others, coincided with the Soviet-era Sandinistas war on Nicaragua’s churches.
Labelling clergy as terrorists, 76-year-old Ortega accused pastors of fostering domestic terrorism.
He then accused priests of “having no respect for Christ, nor God,” and in a rant quoting the Bible, asserted that the Church was in league with the Pharisees.
Observers have suggested Ortega’s repression of the Church primarily comes from bitterness over the clergy providing sanctuary and charity to wounded pro-Democracy protesters in 2018.
Photo: Bishop Rolando Álvarez in Matagalpa, Nicaragua prepares Aug. 4 for a Eucharistic procession, after he was barred by police officials from entering his diocesan chancery. Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa/Facebook.
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