Former political prisoners Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro assured that, despite the hardship of having spent months in prison in subhuman conditions, they came out more eager to struggle for democracy in Nicaragua. They also thanked the national and international community for the sustained demand for the release of political prisoners and called for the issue of Nicaragua to remain on the agenda.
“For having been victims of injustice, because we committed absolutely no crime, and for having seen this farce of a political system, we can only be more committed to a change towards strong independent institutions and respect for human rights,” said Chamorro.
He explained that even though in prison they could speak very little, and notwithstanding the short time they have been out, a little more than a day, he believes “that there is a sentiment on the part of us who were prisoners to continue this struggle.”
“There is a sense of community among all of us, a sense of duty, of responsibility and a lifelong commitment so that Nicaragua does not suffer these abuses again. That is the most generalized feeling,” he added.
To continue demanding freedom
“The issue of human rights must remain on the agenda. There are 44 political prisoners who remained in jail. The issue of exiles is an issue that we must continue working with the international community. It would be a shame that after all this effort for our release the issue were to cool down,” said Chamorro during a press conference moderated by international lawyer Jared Genser.
During the online event, Maradiaga asserted that at this time he is not prepared to talk about the prison conditions he endured for 610 days. “But I will simply say that no human being should suffer such conditions” and then he added “after having experienced them I am more committed than ever to put an end to this type of arbitrariness in Nicaragua.”
Juan Sebastian noted that “effectively, prison changes you, especially if it is for a prolonged period of time, as was our case.” However, it is not a change of conviction because after suffering this firsthand, “we could only come out more committed to struggle for a change and for this change to be towards institutionality, respect for human rights and public freedoms.”
Both political prisoners were presidential hopefuls in Nicaragua and had been public figures of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) and the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB), respectively. Both were arrested on June 8, 2021.
During their time in prison, they were incommunicado. Maradiaga stated that he never had access to any kind of legal counsel. “We were tried in conditions never before seen, not even in Nicaragua, where the Ortega regime has been characterized by its arbitrariness.”
Felix Maradiaga said he found out of his expulsion from Nicaragua when he was on the road in front of the international airport. He said it was only then that they handed him a handwritten paper stating the he was leaving voluntarily. Many hours later, already in U.S. soil, he learned about the stripping of his Nicaraguan nationality.
“Taking away our nationality makes no sense, not even within the same arbitrary legal system. The supposed law annuls the nationality of any person who was judged by law 1055 and none of us who were there were tried under law 1055, which is a civil law and not a criminal law,” he commented.
Juan Sebastian Chamorro thanked Spain for its gesture of offering nationality to the political prisoners who were left stateless by order of the Ortega dictatorship. “It is a generous offer that fills us with hope, especially learning about this news. I am sure that many of the 222 political prisoners will be making decisions about it.”
“It is a medieval dictatorship”
Maradiaga added that “what is happening (in Nicaragua) should be a case study for the collapse of institutions anywhere in the world. Taking away nationality, banishment, is something that is completely unacceptable under any political or legal perspective.”
The political activist compared the behavior of the dictatorship with medieval empires that banished their adversaries and assures that his concern is not only due to an electoral interest or any presidential aspiration, “that is easily solved if there are clear rules of the game. Our concern is the collapse of democratic institutions and the fundamental rights of Nicaraguans.”
“The issue of political prisoners was considered a thing of the past, but unfortunately in Nicaragua we have to continue working on that issue. Not only for the 44 who remained inside, including Monsignor Alvarez who is in the La Modelo prison and decided not to leave, but for future generations. There has not been a single generation (of Nicaraguans) in the last 200 years that has not suffered war, kidnappings, human rights violations, exile, and murder. That is something that has to change,” added Chamorro.