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Paulo Abrao: "Ortega’s political trials are baseless"

“The totalitarianism in Nicaragua is beyond comparison with other situations in the region,” the Brazilian attorney affirmed

The executive secretary affirms that

Redacción Confidencial

10 de febrero 2022


The political trials the Ortega regime is conducting against the prisoners of conscience in the El Chipote jail complex have neither “probative substance” nor “legitimate origins”, explained Brazilian attorney Paulo Abrao, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

The first weeks of February have already seen twelve prisoners of conscience declared guilty in rapid-fire, irregular trials taking place in the jail complex, where the political prisoners remain locked up, instead of in the designated courtroom.

As of Tuesday, February 8, the following 12 prisoners have been declared guilty: political leaders Ana Margarita Vijil, Suyen Barahona and Dora Maria Tellez; student leader Lesther Aleman; journalist and former presidential aspirant Miguel Mora; young activists Yader Parajon and Yaser Vado; former Liberal deputy Maria Fernanda Flores; sports columnist Miguel Mendoza; ex-diplomat Francisco Sacasa; plus ex-Sandinista Donald Alvarenga y Douglas Cerros Lanza. All but the latter two were declared guilty of the fabricated crime of “conspiracy to undermine the national integrity.” Alvarenga and Cerros were tried and sentenced for equally undefined “Cybercrimes”.

Among the evidence presented by the District Attorney’s Office were posts on Twitter and other social networks, in which the accused shared information or opinions that were critical of the Ortega regime. The Ortega-allied judges accepted this evidence as valid and sufficient.

On Sunday, February 6, the weekly online news program Esta Semana featured an interview with Paulo Abrao, broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live due to the censorship of the Nicaraguan regime. In the interview, Abrao explained that classifying expressions that are an integral part of every citizen’s right to free thinking as “valid evidence”, is in itself clear proof of the lack of legitimacy of the evidence being used to convict the political prisoners.

“That’s an example of the great fragility of these trials, which have no legal basis, nor probatory substance. They have to sift through expressed attitudes that are well within freedom of thought in order to make them square with the idea of actions that risk the nation, the State or the national security,” Abrao reasoned.

“This affects freedom of expression and the free exercise of independent media. The verdicts themselves, and the what they are based on, culminates an entire sequence of authoritarian acts against the prisoners. The sentences are in themselves a new violation to [the prisoners’] human rights,” the Brazilian attorney added.

The “sequence of authoritarian acts” in Ortega’s political trials deprives them of any legal validity. Illegalities have been rampant, from the moment of the “arrests” – generally abductions carried out in a way that violated all legal procedures established in Nicaragua. The violations continued through to the actions of the Attorney General’s office and of the judges themselves during these trials.

The regime’s District Attorney, in addition to asking for sentences of up to 15 years in prison, demanded that the sentences also include inhibiting the accused from ever holding public office. The first prisoners have begun receiving their sentences this week.

“We’re seeing trials conducted behind closed doors, including the intimidation of the accused. They’re restricting the right to be able to speak freely. The political prisoners have to deal with all the harassment and intimidation their family members are subjected to, within an entire process of stigmatization and prejudgment by the country’s highest authorities. What’s happening in Nicaragua comprises an incomparably serious situation,” Abrao commented.

The regime announced the beginning of the political trials in a press statement that violated the principle of presumed innocence by referring to the prisoners of conscience as “criminals and delinquents”.

“The Prosecution is being used as a mere tool. We all know that the outcome of the trials taking place in Nicaragua has already been predetermined and everything prepared. They created a complete apparatus for persecution that involves the legislative branch, the executive branch, and now the justice system. They’re consolidating a police state, a state of siege. But at the same time, they’re seeding an environment of general illegitimacy, generalized authoritarianism, with this manipulation of the state structures,” expressed the IACHR’s former executive secretary.


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Abrao believes that this totalitarian manipulation of the state institutions to lay siege, persecute and imprison opponents and citizens in Nicaragua has no counterpart in the Latin American region, even when compared to other nations with problematic systems of government, such as El Salvador, Honduras or Venezuela.

“It’s one of the worst scenarios that can be constructed in any country, because the people no longer have any alternative for protection, no one they can seek out. At this time, no other situation is comparable to what Nicaragua is experiencing. There’s no way to compare the totalitarianism that Nicaraguans are living under with other situations in the region,” he added.

The attorney explained that other totalitarian countries that use similar sham trials and political persecution to squelch the opposition, at least have some “small cracks” in their corrupt judicial systems that allow some of the guilty verdicts to be overturned. Others still offer some way to denounce the arbitrary actions the accused are subjected to.

One of the most noteworthy incidents in the current political trials in El Chipote occurred at the trial of student leader Lesther Aleman. When he tried to make use of his right to speak, the prosecutor shouted to Ortega-appointed Judge Nadia Camila Tardencilla Rodriguez: “Even if it’s his right, don’t let him talk!” The judge assented to the prosecutor’s demand, and Aleman only succeeded in saying: “I’m innocent.”

“These are essentially dictatorial practices. Nicaragua has an authoritarian system of justice, where an appearance of legality is maintained during all the proceedings, but in truth it’s a scaffold aimed at a particular group of people with political differences, or who hold critical opinions. The legislature and the legal institutions are both manipulated,” the legal expert declared.

Other trials expected this week include: Victor Hugo Tinoco, a member of the Unamos executive board (formerly the Sandinista Renewal Movement); political scientist Jose Antonio Peraza; activist Alexis Peralta; farm leader Freddy Navas; and student leader Max Jerez..

“This goes even further, by using the judicial authorities as accomplices in a repressive and illegitimate legal system. They’re manipulating all of the institutions that in theory were created to protect people, turning them into part of the repressive apparatus,” Abrao remarked.

Abrao predicted that when democracy is once again installed in Nicaragua, there’ll be no difficulty overturning these legal proceedings imposed on the prisoners of conscience. In order to do so, they must maintain all possible documentation of these events, and enlist the collaboration of specialized international organizations.

“When democratic normality is reestablished in Nicaragua,” Abrao predicted, “I have no doubt that all of these things that are happening will be repaired or annulled. It all originates from a source that’s not legitimate and not democratic but represents an accumulated succession of illegalities and authoritarian acts.”

“In the international arena, we can attempt to help; we can attempt to follow up on the denunciations – for example, in the United Nations Committee on Arbitrary Detentions. We can also speed up the cases that are in process in the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. They should be going on to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, so these violations are at least registered, typified, and documented. That way, when the system in Nicaragua changes, there’ll be a foundation for advancing with the annulments,” Paulo Abrao concluded.

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


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.