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The Ten Political Prisoners of Easter Week 2023 Serve One Year in Jail

For some, their crime was participating in or covering religious activities, others were detained for being opponents. All faced spurious trials

Redacción Confidencial

27 de marzo 2024


Ten Nicaraguans, imprisoned during Holy Week 2023, will once again spend this Catholic commemoration behind the bars of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

The list of these political prisoners includes parishioners who participated in processions and Stations of the Cross, as well as opponents who, on those days in 2023, were under police surveillance due to the proximity of the fifth anniversary of the “April Rebellion.”

Seven of these ten Nicaraguans were convicted for the alleged crimes of: “propagation of false news,” “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “treason.”

This list is different from the one presented, in mid-March 2024, by the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua, which denounced the imprisonment of 13 people for participating in activities of the Catholic Church, between April 2023 and January 2024.

CONFIDENCIAL listed the prisoners of conscience who were detained during April 2023 and were included in the last report of the Mechanism, which registers all political prisoners in Nicaragua, published in January 2024. From this list, the ten imprisoned during Holy Week a year ago were identified. These are their stories.  

The ten prisoners of Easter Week

Abdul Montoya Vivas, 62 years old

Incarcerated on 03/04/2023

He is a recognized former anti-somocista fighter and opponent of Daniel Ortega's regime. He was imprisoned in 2018 for allegedly committing murder, but in June 2019 he was released under the Amnesty Law.

After his release, Montoya decided to lead a clandestine life in Jinotega under the pseudonym "Julio Valenzuela". However, he suffered siege and lived with his freedom threatened until the day of his capture.

On Easter Monday he was arrested while he was on board a bus. According to witnesses, the policemen searched him and found money and a list of medicines he was planning to buy. 

On September 13, 2023, the Ortega justice system sentenced him to 23 years in prison for the alleged crimes of "terrorism", "treason" and "propagation of false news". In January 2024, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted him precautionary measures.

Alberto José Centeno Ruiz, 22 years old

Imprisoned on 03/04/2023

Very little information is known about Alberto Centeno. The 22-year-old was originally from Nindirí, Masaya, and was detained on Easter Monday. 

The Mechanism included him in its list of people detained for "participating in a Way of the Cross procession and activities of the Catholic Church".

In its latest report, the Mechanism detailed that he has already been sentenced and is being held in gallery 16 of the National Penitentiary System "Jorge Navarro", known as La Modelo.

Anielka Lucía García Zapata, 27 years old

Incarcerated on 04/04/2023

Anielka owned a screen printing business in her native Chichigalpa, Chinandega. Before being imprisoned, she was commissioned to make a blue and white t-shirt, with the image of a guardabarranco (Nicaragua’s national bird) in the center, accompanied by the words "Abril Vive", and "Viva Nicaragua Libre". According to close sources, the young woman was denounced for the silkscreen printing of this T-shirt.

On the night of April 4, 2023, an operation of riot police and light blue-sleeved police surrounded her business, entered without a warrant, and took all the machines, printers, computers, a photocopier, promotional items, and everything they found in their path.

Anielka and one of her two children, aged seven, were put into a police patrol car. They left the minor at a relative's house and she was arrested. 

The young woman was sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly "propagating false news" and "conspiracy to undermine national integrity". 

Jasson Noel Salazar Rugama, 27 years old

Imprisoned on 04/04/2023

Salazar is a well-known student leader and vice president of the Movimiento Universitario 19 de Abril. He was also a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which was formed after the 2018 protests.

He was arrested on Holy Tuesday 2023, when a group of 20 police officers stormed his house and took him away along with several of his personal belongings. His family was first able to see him until four months after the arrest.

The young man was convicted of the alleged crimes of "undermining national integrity" and "spreading false news" in a trial fraught with irregularities. He was deprived of the defense of a lawyer and even his trial was conducted without his physical presence because everything was done through a video call from the prison. 

Marvin David Gutiérrez Siezar, 19 years old  

Imprisoned on 04/04/2023

When Marvin Gutiérrez was arrested, he had just turned 18 years old. In his hometown of Nindirí he was a sports reporter and, as confirmed by his social media posts, he is a faithful devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

In his last Facebook profile picture he is seen behind a radio microphone and wearing a shirt in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It is not certain how he was imprisoned or what he was accused of, but the Mechanism included him in the list of 13 political prisoners detained for "participating in the Way of the Cross and in activities proper to the Catholic Church". 

His Facebook profile has been manipulated, according to his family. Several of his publications were changed with links and texts in which he allegedly criticized Daniel Ortega's dictatorship.

The young man was imprisoned in a repressive context that took place in Nindirí during Holy Week, which included the cancellation of the traditional Procession of the Cirineos and the persecution of several young people who were going to participate in it.

Edubhin Sebastián Bermúdez Sevilla, 61 years old

Imprisoned on 05/04/2023

Bermudez is one of 19 political prisoners over the age of 60, according to the Mechanism's list. He was imprisoned on Good Friday. Very little is known about him. It is known that he is originally from Acoyapa, Chontales; that he is being held in gallery 4 of La Modelo prison, and that he is one of the political prisoners who went on hunger strike in December 2023, in an attempt to improve his food, to respect his hours of rest and his time off in the sun. 

José Ángel Cerrato García, 38 years old

Imprisoned on 05/04/2023

José Ángel Cerrato was taken by the National Police from his workplace. It was Holy Wednesday when several officers arrived outside the site, where they remained for at least three hours until they finally entered and took him away. 

Moments before he was arrested, the police seized the motorcycle he had parked outside, on which he was traveling to work from Nindirí to Masaya.

Cerrato was a known dissident of the Ortega dictatorship. He is imprisoned in gallery 16 of La Modelo. Groups of political prisoners have denounced that the opponent suffers from depression and has lost weight since his arrest.

Juan Bruno Centeno Espinoza, 62 years old

Imprisoned on 06/04/2023

He is a farmer from the Moropoto community, in San Lucas, Madriz. He was arrested for allegedly planning a Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. For that cause, the Police searched for him since the morning of April 6, 2023. 

The officers used to besiege Centeno's house every time he held meetings with other producers in the area. In these meetings they were organizing to access an agricultural support program promoted by Caritas Nicaragua, several acquaintances told the Nicaragua Insurrecta platform. 

Juan Bruno was a delegate of the Word in his community church but had been inactive for three years. 

It is known that he was sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly “undermining national integrity and spreading false news,” as reported by Intertextual media.

Olesia Auxiliadora Muñoz Pavón, 51 years old

Imprisoned on 06/04/2023

The Nicaraguan was imprisoned between July 2018 and June 2019 for supporting civic protests against Daniel Ortega. She was released with the Amnesty Law. After her release from prison, she distanced herself from political and civil society organizations to devote herself to her passion: music. Olesia sang in the Santa Ana de Niquinohomo parish, where she also taught piano, guitar, and flute. 

She had no plans to leave Nicaragua because she thought "everything was relatively calm". She focused on doing truck hauling, yard work, and keeping her schedule always receptive to any private mass that requested her talents in the choir. 

However, since 2022, the siege and threats from the police to prevent any kind of protests intensified until on Holy Thursday, April 6, more than 15 police and paramilitaries came to her house, asking her to accompany them for an interview and she did not return. 

Muñoz was sentenced to ten years in prison for the alleged crimes of "undermining national integrity" and "propagation of false news".

Víctor Yobelni Ticay Ruiz, 31 years old

Imprisoned on 06/04/2023

Ticay is a well-known journalist from Granada. Before being imprisoned he was a correspondent for Canal 10, the most-watched TV channel in Nicaragua, and was also director of the Facebook page "La Portada".

In 2023, Ticay gave coverage - as he does every year - to the tradition of La Reseña, held on Holy Wednesday. On his personal Facebook account, he made a live broadcast of the religious activity and that was enough for him to be imprisoned the next day. 

In August 2023, the Orteguista justice system sentenced him to eight years in prison for the alleged crimes of "propagation of false news", "conspiracy to undermine national integrity" and "treason", in a spurious trial in which he had no right to defense.

April raids left 24 detained

April was one of the months with the most arrests in Nicaragua in 2023. In the first 21 days of the month alone, some 39 Nicaraguan opponents were kidnapped by the Ortega regime. Some of them were released, but almost a year after these arrests, 24 people remain in prison. 

Those who remain in jail are the ten people imprisoned during Holy Week and 14 other Nicaraguans:

  1. Brenda Lee Baldelomar Alemán.
  2. Sergio Catarino Castilblanco Hernández.
  3. José Antonio Castillo.
  4. Eddy Antonio Castillo Muñoz.
  5. Martha Lorena Centeno Marín.
  6. Julio José García Guevara.
  7. José Ramón Mena Matus.
  8. Henry Salomon Muñoz.
  9. Jaqueline de Jesús Rodríguez Herrera.
  10. José Manuel Ruiz Sánchez.
  11. Manuel Antonio Sánchez.
  12. Marcos Antonio Sánchez Hidalgo.
  13. Cándido Sánchez López.
  14. Juan Pablo Torres Morales.

The persecution that began in April extended into May. During that month, more than fifty Nicaraguans were captured during the night of the 3rd and early morning of the 4th. This group was accused in express hearings in the courts of Managua, for the alleged crimes of "conspiracy and undermining national integrity" and "propagation of false news". 

Most of these detainees were sent home with the obligation to check in daily or weekly with local police authorities.

Parishioners and Church workers imprisoned 

On March 16, 2024, the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua published a list of 13 persons who remain detained for “participating in the Way of the Cross and activities of the Catholic Church,” between April 2023 and January 2024.  

According to the denunciation, most of these "were reported missing for more than two months" because the authorities concealed their whereabouts. In addition, "their judicial processes were arbitrary, without respect for due process, without the right to defense of their choice," they said. 

The list includes four of the ten detained during Holy Week, five workers of Caritas Esteli, an opponent arrested during the raids on the fifth anniversary of the Rebellion, and three lay people: a Catholic journalist, a parishioner who participated in a procession, and another who published his annoyance at the repression of the Church.  

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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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.