Since 2018, Monsignor José Leonardo Urbina Rodríguez, priest of the parish of Perpetuo Socorro, in Boaco, asked for the release of political prisoners in his homilies, prayed for Nicaragua to be free, and stood in solidarity with citizens protesting against the Government, detailed church members, former political prisoners and Catholic parishioners of that city. “That is why the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo had him on file, because they know that in some way he supported the blue and white struggle,” said a citizen who participated in the protests.
“Monsignor Leonardo Urbina is very well-liked, the proof is that people went out to the streets to protest and demand his freedom, losing their fear. Today, in all the streets of the city, people are talking about the injustice that is being committed because it is known that those who accuse him are tokens of the Sandinista regime,” commented a parishioner who worked closely with the vicar of the pastoral zone of Boaco, who has been in prison since July 13 and faces trial after he was accused of the alleged rape of a 14-year-old teenager.
For Jaime Ampié, a former political prisoner from Boaco, who was imprisoned from May 30, 2018, until May 20, 2019, the presence of several Sandinistas in the judicial hearings in Managua as “witnesses or companions” of the family of the alleged victim shows that this is “a political trial”.
“Mrs. Reyna Oporta, a Sandinista councilwoman who was a witness in the trial against me, clearly lying for the trial, even cried and pointed out that she had seen me shoot, and was now asked to be part of another Sandinista lynching, but this time against Monsignor Leonardo Urbina”, assured the former political prisoner.
The parishioner, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, insisted that “the FSLN has unleashed a persecution in order to silence our pastors and prepare for a process in which there will be no voice against them”.
“They know that the priests in Nicaragua are voices heard and respected by the people and are a strong bond in the communities, that is why they want to intimidate them”, he explained.
The Church in Boaco defends him
The priest Allan Paizano, of the Santiago Apostle parish in Boaco, called for prayer after the “commotion” caused by the news of the arrest of Monsignor Urbina and said that “the state of defenselessness in which we Nicaraguans find ourselves, where we are not questioned, where we are not judged for being innocent or guilty, but we are declared guilty for being a priest, is saddening”.
“If they call us terrorists, if they call us coup plotters, if they call us murderers, let them insult us, but we are not. The important thing is that God knows that we are not,” he said in a program broadcast by Catholic Radio of Boaco, in reference to the attacks by Ortega and regime sympathizers who have used those adjectives against priests when they raised their voices against the repression and massacre that left more than 325 people killed between April and September 2018.
In his message, he insisted that the laws of Nicaragua indicate that every citizen “who can be judged” must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
“We are all equal before the law. If I am accused, I go to trial for them to prove my guilt. The question is, am I going to find an independent and impartial tribunal in this country?” he questioned.
The priest insisted that “the problem is not that we are accused, because we will never claim unaccountability, we will never claim immunity, we will never claim impunity, but as citizens, we do have rights (...) and we can point out the injustices”.
Paizano said that Monsignor Urbina, 51 years old, “does not fight with anyone, he is a gentle person, he has always been very kind” and for that reason “it hurts in the deepest way to see him humiliated, handcuffed, like a criminal”.
He questioned that the vicar of the pastoral zone of Boaco appeared to be judged in Managua when he is from Boaco, and recalled that, as established by law, he has the right to a defense, and instead “a defender was appointed by the same system”.
“They have not said to us, ‘find him a lwayer,’” he lamented.
Urbina became the second religious detained by the Ortega-Murillo regime. The priest Manuel Salvador García Rodríguez, parish priest of the Jesús de Nazareno church -also known as El Calvario-, in Nandaime, Granada, was sentenced on June 22 to two years in prison for the alleged crime of threatening five people with a knife and a fine of 14,116 córdobas or 200 days' fines.
The priest was transferred to the Penitentiary System of Granada, where he will remain in prison, according to the court decision, which sentenced him after the night of May 30, he went out to the church atrium with a machete in hand in a defensive attitude against a group of villagers who shouted expletives such as “murderer”.
Since his arrest on June 2, it became known that he was accused of “physical violence in ideal competition with psychological violence” against Martha Candelaria Rivas Hernandez, the alleged victim, whom the regime also condemned after she refused to sign the complaint for the alleged intentional aggression.
Diocese of Granada: “We stand in the name of the Lord”
The Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Granada, which also serves Boaco, presided over by Monsignor Jorge Solórzano, urged through a message “not to let ourselves be carried away by discouragement, nor lose hope”.
“We thank God for your prayers, affection and solidarity in these difficult times, your compassion unites us in the suffering caused by the imprisonment of Fathers Manuel de Salvador Garcia and Monsignor Leonardo Urbina, with them we all place ourselves in the hands of the Lord” the message details.
They invited all the parishes to carry out “daily days of prayer imploring the Lord, the virtue of a firm certainty that the path of love, forgiveness and mercy will make possible the full reconciliation of the people of God”.
“Priests and faithful, let us pray for the spiritual strength of Fathers Manuel Salvador García and Monsignor Leonardo Urbina, with whom our fraternal love is always with”, adds the text.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff