The one-year prison sentence for the crime of “involuntary manslaughter,” the suspension of the penalty and the immediate release of Ortega supporter Abner Pineda, is “aberrant” and gives “a message of impunity,” denounced prosecution lawyer, Evert Acevedo, of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH).
Pineda shot Jorge Luis Rugama, 41, point blank in front of witnesses on July 19 in La Trinidad, Esteli.
“The most serious aspect of this sentence is the message of impunity the Government and State send to its militancy. They are giving them a license to kill opponents,” warned Acevedo in an interview on the “Esta Semana” online program.
Acevedo noted that during the trial “the witnesses were convincing”. They established that the murder of Rugama occurred on July 19 of this year, in La Trinidad, Esteli. They testified that Pineda was in a caravan of Sandinista supporters cruising the streets of the municipality in commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the Revolution. As they were passing, Rugama yelled “Long Live a Free Nicaragua”. Pineda then got out of his vehicle and shot and killed him.
“Abner Pineda gets out of his vehicle, looks for where Jorge Luis Rugama was, takes out his gun, removes the safety and shoots him in the neck,” Acevedo explained.
He also detailed that the police investigator established the same facts as the witnesses. Likewise, the Police ballistics expert said “it was impossible” for the weapon to fire accidentally, as argued by Pineda’s defense.
“The words of the ballistics expert were: It is impossible for that weapon to have accidentally fired,” said the CPDH lawyer.
“An outrageous sentence”
For Acevedo, the sentence handed down by judge Erick Laguna “is one of the most aberrant in procedural history of Nicaragua.” He took “only what he wanted” from the testimonies and investigations “to exonerate Mr. Pineda.”
“The judge took (from the investigation) that the expert said that the weapon was easy to fire, something that the expert never said. This demonstrates that the judge was only acting under superior orders to exonerate Mr. Pineda,” insisted the prosecuting attorney.
Pineda is a Sandinista militant and also held a position at the Esteli post office. For those reasons, the prosecuting attorney and Rugama’s family believe that he was “favored” by Ortega’s justice.
Laguna is the same judge who was in charge of the trial for the “El Carrizo” massacre, which occurred two days after the 2011 elections, when five opponents were killed at the hands of Sandinista militants.
“Subordination and lack of independence of the Judicial Power”
The killer’s defense argued that the accused had psychological traumas caused after being threatened in 2018 during anti-government protests. Judge Laguna established that Pineda’s traumas were caused by the “failed coup d’état attempt, in April 2018.”
“These were allegations of the judge himself, to say that it was due to a failed coup d’état attempt in 2018. The defense had claimed Pineda was threatened in 2018, during the protests. However, to be in line with the narrative of the Presidency, the judge used the word coup d’état attempt. This indicates his total subordination and the lack of independence of the Judicial Power in this country,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo added that judge Laguna established as extenuating the “sudden fit due to the fact he was drunk and celebrating July 19th.”
“This is serious because they are sending the message that next July 19th all Sandinista militants who are drunk can assassinate people with impunity,” said the prosecuting attorney.
In the coming days, the CPDH lawyer said they will appeal the sentence. Rugama’s mother, Luisa Rizo, said she has “faith in God because he will be the one to do justice. I know that these are the people the Government needs, murderers. Good people are the ones they have punished.”