The Ortega dictatorship's persecution against Catholic parishioners has reached three other citizens from Boaco and Chontales, in central Nicaragua. The three were summoned by the police and sentenced to "city arrest", in a new arbitrary and intimidating act against the Catholic Church and its pastoral groups.
These three Nicaraguans are in addition to the nine people, originally from the north of the country - Jalapa and Jinotega - who, according to various sources confirmed by CONFIDENCIAL, are also under an alleged investigation and must request permission from the police to leave their municipalities. Most of those implicated - twelve in total - were summoned in September, but they are only now becoming known due to the persistent fear among the population to denounce the violations of their human rights.
As part of the intimidation, the Police threatened some of those investigated with confiscation of their properties and told them they had photos and videos of their participation in the attempted coup d'état, as the Ortega regime calls the civic rebellion of 2018, whose peaceful marches were crushed by the Police and paramilitary groups.
At that time, hundreds of parishioners joined the Blue and White marches demanding justice, democracy and a peaceful solution to the socio-political crisis. The processions themselves became acts of protest, after the dictatorship prohibited public demonstrations.
Police Assume the Duties of Judges
The police are empowered to investigate any person when there is presumption of the commission of a crime. However, the imposition of the precautionary measure of "city arrest" is "illegal" and violates Article 25 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, on individual liberty, and Article 31, on freedom of movement, said a criminal lawyer, who agreed to speak to CONFIDENCIAL under anonymity.
Both rights can only be restricted by a court when there is an open criminal process against those involved, the specialist clarified. The same is true for the precautionary measures of periodic presentation at a police station.
"Ortega and his repressive apparatus are committing a crime against humanity called religious persecution, which is enshrined in the Rome Statute of the Criminal Court. The persecution against religious people and now it is extending to the civilian religious population, so we note that this persecution is widening, deepening and becoming more violent," says Danny Ramirez, executive secretary of the Inter-American Legal Assistance Center for Human Rights (CALIDH – Centro de Asistencia Legal Interamericano de Derechos Humanos).
In effect, the Ortega regime began its confrontation against the Church by encouraging its pro-Ortega mobs to vandalize and desecrate churches, sent the Police to besiege parishes, and since mid-2022 intensified its attacks, prohibiting processions nationwide, intensifying surveillance during homilies and imprisoning priests. Among them, Bishop Rolando Alvarez, responsible for the Dioceses of Esteli and Matagalpa, the most besieged in the last five years, after the Archdiocese of Managua.
According to Ramirez, the regime's objective with this new onslaught against the Church, characterized by the kidnapping of priests and the police summons of lay people organized in the different parishes, is to deprive the population of the only freedom it has left: to gather at the parishes.
"House arrest" for Six Opposition Members
In addition to the twelve parishioners summoned by the police, six other opponents from Boaco and Chontales were also summoned to the police stations and warned that they cannot leave their respective cities.
The Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners indicates that as of August there are 89 political prisoners. However, there remains an underreporting of cases that are not included in the list due to the fear their families have. Thus, the real number of prisoners of conscience easily exceeds 100, including 13 priests, former workers of the Ortega regime, opposition leaders in their municipalities, students and parishioners.
According to the lawyer consulted, the Ortega regime has identified the people it will keep in prison, but at the same time, it is trying to instill fear in another group of people and provoke them to leave the country. "There are a lot of people being arrested from different places", he warned.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.