NEW YORK (March 21, 2022) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the criminal convictions and long sentences that the Nicaraguan regime has handed down following sham trials against seven former presidential candidates and other prisoners of conscience, including Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Cristiana Chamorro, Violeta Granera, and former Oslo Freedom Forum speaker Félix Maradiaga.
In recent months, Daniel Ortega’s regime has carried out trials riddled with due process violations against several high-profile political prisoners. On March 3, 2022, former presidential contenders Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Cristiana Chamorro, and Félix Maradiaga were sentenced to 13 years in prison for the politically-motivated charge of conspiracy to “undermine national integrity.” Opposition activists Violeta Granera and Tamara Davila received two eight year sentences, while former ambassador to the United States Arturo Cruz Sequeria was sentenced to nine years in prison.
“The international community must loudly reject that the true leaders of Nicaragua’s civil society are being falsely convicted and sentenced to excessive prison time by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “Their wrongful imprisonments are based on false accusations and full of due process violations, which transparently show Ortega’s desire for extended dictatorial control of the country,” added El-Hage.
Most of the sentenced political prisoners were subjected to arbitrary detention and torture, among other forms of inhumane treatment and violations of due process. Shortly after the trials, the regime also proceeded to expel the papal nuncio Msgr. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, who mediated talks between the regime and the opposition in 2018.
The regime of Daniel Ortega has steadily eroded democratic institutions since coming to power in 2007. After responding with wholesale violence to pro-democracy protests in 2018, countless protesters were imprisoned and a mass exodus took place. In the leadup to the November 2021 presidential election, Ortega imprisoned all main opposition candidates and more than 30 pro-democracy activists, guaranteeing this way that he would run and win the vote without meaningful opposition.
“The democratic world, especially in Latin America, cannot sit idly as Ortega’s tyrannical actions continue to destroy any opportunity for a return to democracy in Nicaragua. We must not tire in calling for all prisoners of conscience to be released and for Nicaraguans to once again be able to decide their future in a free and fair election,” added El-Hage.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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