Nicaragua releases over 200 political prisoners
(CNN, KYMA/KECY) - Nicaragua released more than 200 political prisoners this week, sending almost all of them to the U.S.
Many were detained in 2018 in a wave of repression by President Daniel Ortega.
Washington has welcomed their release and has promised to give them medical and legal support.
“Well, you can imagine being in a cage for a year and eight months. It’s been a very traumatic situation, as you can imagine," said Nicaraguan political leader Juan Sebastian Chamorro.
Chamorro is a free man for the first time in 20 months.
“I was taken at night, without a judicial order. I was just taken by the police. They stormed into my house, and they took me," Chamorro spoke.
The Nicaraguan political leader is one of 222 former political prisoners, including one American citizen, taken out of jail Wednesday and Thursday and put on a plane bound for the United States.
"The U.S. government is providing them various types of assistance to adjust and adjust their situation here in Washington," said Kevin Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan President Ortega denied his country had negotiated with the united states for the prisoners’ release. Also, Washington was very careful to say that the release was a unilateral decision.
“The release of these individuals by the government of Nicaragua marks a constructive step towards addressing the human rights abuses in that country. This action opens the door to discussion of other matters of mutual concern," said Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. State Department.
Blueprint of abuses
Most of the political prisoners flown to the U.S. Thursday were captured during a particularly violent crackdown of political opposition leaders and dissidents in 2021 when Nicaraguan strongman Ortega was getting ready to run for reelection.
Among those detained were at least seven potential presidential candidates whose voices immediately silenced by the regime. With no opposition, Ortega easily won a fourth consecutive term only months later.
“Our legal case is a blueprint of abuses of the [Nicaraguan] legal system from the moment of the capture. We were not given the right of defense by our lawyers. I never talked to my lawyer. I never talked to my lawyer in private, which is a constitutional right. And I was sentenced to 13 years in prison without any proof, actually," Chamorro described.
After spending years in prison, those released suffered yet another humiliation when departing: the regime stripped them off their Nicaraguan citizenship.
"In your soul"
The government media were then labeled by multiple officials as “traitors to the motherland”.
But political activist Félix Maradiaga, one of the released, said no government action can take away what is rightfully his.
“Being Nicaraguan is in your soul,” Maradiaga said.
“No law approved by the [national] assembly will take away my being Nicaraguan, something that will stay with me until I die”.