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Nicaraguan priest charged with "conspiracy" and "spreading fake news"

The prosecution filed charges against Enrique Martinez a day after his violent arrest. The judge and prosecutor for the case are both linked to FSLN

Octavio Enríquez

20 de octubre 2022


The Ortega regime continued its escalation of attacks against the Catholic Church, this time targeting 64-year-old Father Enrique Martinez Gamboa. The parish priest is accused of conspiracy and propagating fake news.

The three-page accusatory document was introduced by the Public Prosecutor’s office on the morning of October 14th, less than a day after the priest was violently arrested in his home in Managua.

Martinez is the eleventh priest jailed during Ortega’s judicial rampage against the Catholic Church. Others include Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa, who has been under house arrest incommunicado at his family’s Managua residence since August 19.

Enrique Martinez maintained a firm voice of denunciation during the citizen protests of 2018, speaking out against the government’s human rights violations. On October 17, a relative of the priest introduced a habeas corpus motion before Judge Octavio Rothschuh, opposing the actions of Commissioner Luis Alberto Perez, head of the main police and jail complex in Managua known as El Chipote. The appeal is supposedly “being processed.”

The day Father Martinez was taken prisoner by the police, agents arrived at his home and knocked down the door. They took the priest out of the room he was in, using blows and pushes, and forced him into a pick-up truck. All the while, he screamed at them: “police murderers!” and “Long live Christ the King!” Sources close to Confidencial affirmed that they escorted the Father out “in his underwear”.

Prosecutor and judge railroad the political prisoners

According to the Case File, the prosecutor in charge is Heydi Estela Ramirez. The judge is Karen Chavarria, who presides over the Ninth District Criminal Court in Managua. Both legal functionaries have a history of subordinating their judicial decisions to the will of the governing party.

Prosecutor Heydi Ramirez collaborated in the persecution of the independent press in cases like the recent bogus trials of workers from the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. However, she’s also known for threatening a number of journalists during interrogation sessions in June 2021, in the course of fabricating a money laundering case against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.

In 2021, Judge Karen Chavarria was the one to order the arrest of presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro, the Violeta Barrios Foundation’s former president. The judge was sanctioned by the United States government last March, when her name was added to the “Engel’s list”, a registry of important corrupt and antidemocratic figures.

At that time, Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department, signed a declaration accusing the judge of: “abusing her authority and subverting the legal processes, in order to act against political opponents of the Ortega-Murillo regime and inhibit the opposition candidates from participating in the November 2021 elections.”

Sources have told Confidencial that Father Martinez suffers from chronic illnesses including diabetes, high blood pressure, problems in one kidney and problems with his blood circulation.

Meanwhile, an oral public hearing is scheduled for December 1st in the case of three priests, a deacon, two seminary students and a cameraman, all of whom remained with Bishop Rolando Alvarez when the police besieged the curia in Matagalpa from August 3-18. The bishop and those who accompanied him were forcefully taken to Managua on August 19. Monsignor Alvarez was placed under house arrest at that time, but the other seven were imprisoned.

In addition to these events, in 2019 the regime forced Managua’s assistant bishop, Monsignor Silvio Baez, into exile; they expelled the Apostolic Nuncio last March; and they’ve banished others, including the Missionaries of Charity in July. They also closed seven Catholic radio stations in the Matagalpa dioceses.

In 2018, amid the human rights crisis provoked by Ortega’s repression, many priests were the ones denouncing the abuses and aiding the victims in their parishes. The dictatorship then accused them of being “coup-plotters”. Ortega even claimed last September that the religious figures had asked the demonstrators to “put lead [bullets] in him”.

“They came out of the churches, armed to launch attacks against the police stations. And some priests, bishops calling on people to put lead in me, hoping to kill me. Imagine what kind of bishops and priests, they said this serenely. Eh, that’s just a band of murderers, covered up by the Catholic Church,” Ortega declared in a September 29 speech.

His hate speech was uttered during an act commemorating the 43rd anniversary of the police, when he went on to affirm that the Catholic Church was “the prefect dictatorship.”

Later, at the celebration of the fourth year of the declaration of a de facto police state in Nicaragua – a declaration truncating the right to assemble and to protest – he again attacked the Catholic Church, wondering out loud who chose “the priests, the bishops and the Pope.”

Since 2018, the level of repression to assure that the regime remains in power has steadily increased. When the international community has demanded they respond for the crimes committed by the State, they’ve decried such as “interventionism”.


This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times

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Octavio Enríquez

Octavio Enríquez

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado. Comenzó su carrera en el año 2000, cuando todavía era estudiante. Por sus destacadas investigaciones periodísticas ha ganado el Premio Ortega y Gasset, el Premio Internacional de Periodismo Rey de España, el Premio a la Excelencia de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, y el Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación del Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).