The Orteguista justice system accused this Tuesday, December 13, Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, for the alleged crimes of conspiracy to commit undermining national integrity and propagation of false news, the same charges for which the dictatorship has condemned more than 40 political prisoners.
A judicial authority, whose name was not specified, appointed a public defender for the Nicaraguan bishop, decreed him house arrest and scheduled an initial hearing for January 10, 2023, according to the Press Office of the Judicial Complex of Managua, through a public statement.
After 116 days kidnapped under de facto house arrest, the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo showed the religious leader in court with evident weight loss. The Ortega propaganda media published two photographs of Álvarez in the Criminal District Courts of Managua.
Alvarez Lagos, 56, becomes the first bishop to be arrested and charged since Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007.
The Catholic hierarch was kidnapped early Friday morning, August 19, by police agents from the episcopal palace of Matagalpa along with four priests, two seminarians and a cameraman, after having been confined for 15 days.
At the time, the Nicaraguan Police, led by Francisco Díaz, Ortega and Murillo's in-law, accused the bishop of trying to "organize violent groups", allegedly "with the purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities".
Priest Uriel Vallejos, "fugitive from justice"
In the same accusation against Alvarez, the regime included the exiled priest Uriel Antonio Vallejos, who was considered a "fugitive from justice" and a warrant was sent to Interpol for his capture.
The priest was besieged by the Ortega police inside the parish Jesús de la Divina Misericordia, in Sébaco, for three days last August.
On the morning of August 4, the police transferred him to the interdiocesan seminary Nuestra Señora de Fátima, in Managua, and ordered him not to leave, revealed the priest, who believes that the intention of the agents was not only to confiscate the equipment of Radio Católica de Sébaco - which he denounced on social networks - but "to take me prisoner to (the Judicial Assistance Directorate), El Chipote", said Vallejos.
Alvarez is the latest Catholic religious accused by Ortega's justice system. Ortega has imprisoned, since last June, ten priests of the Catholic Church. The first was the priest Manuel García Rodríguez, convicted for allegedly beating a woman; the second, Monsignor José Leonardo Urbina, convicted for the alleged crime of sexual abuse and minor psychological injuries to the detriment of a 14 year old minor.
The third is the priest Óscar Benavidez, currently under investigation for ninety days by the Attorney General's Office due to a "phantom" crime, but of which the State of Nicaragua recognizes itself as "victim and offended".
They were joined by priests José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios, first and second vicar of the San Pedro Cathedral, respectively; Ramiro Tijerino, rector of the Universidad Juan Pablo II and in charge of the San Juan Bautista parish; priest Raúl González and seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melkin Sequeira. This group accompanied Monsignor Alvarez during the 15 days that they remained under siege by dozens of riot police in the parish house of the Diocese of Matagalpa.
Last October, the regime kidnapped the priest Enrique Martínez Gamboa, 64 years old, and then charged him with the alleged crime of conspiracy in competition with that of propagation of false news.
Silencing Bishop Alvarez
Bishop Alvarez is one of the most critical voices within the Catholic hierarchy against the government of Daniel Ortega. His pastoral ministry focused on defending human rights and denouncing the violations, injustices, abuse of power, corruption and authoritarianism prevailing in Ortega's cabinet.
His prophetic voice traveled through remote communities in the north of the country, where they still resent the kidnapping of their pastor and six religious, accused of "conspiracy to undermine national integrity" and "propagation of false news".
With his confinement they seek "that he does not continue speaking, that he does not continue to show his face... the extortion is that he should shut up politically speaking", explained Yader Morazán, a specialist in law.
Regarding the case of Monsignor Alvarez, the silence of the Catholic Church has prevailed. It is not known what is the state of physical and mental health of the religious leader, if he has had access to a medical examination and in what housing conditions he is in.
Last November 23, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) urged the Catholic hierarchy to report on the situation of Alvarez. The organization assured that the bishop had suffered a fall -without specifying the seriousness-, that he was ill and that he was not with his family.
*With information from Efe.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Our Staff