Nicaraguan Anti-Socialist Protesters Sentenced to Hundreds of Years in Prison

Anti-government protesters take part in a march dubbed 'United Nicaragua will never be defeated' in Granada, Nicaragua on August 25, 2018.
INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images

Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime sentenced several anti-government protesters to hundreds of years in prison for defying the regime this week.

Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and fellow states have condemned dictator Daniel Ortega’s regime for gross human rights violations escalating since protests calling for Ortega to step down began last year.

On Wednesday, three farm leaders involved in last year’s anti-government demonstrations were sentenced to a combined total of 550 years in prison between them. According to state prosecutors, the group’s leader, Medardo Mairena, planned and successfully carried out the murder of five police officers.

“It is an exaggerated, ridiculous, and political sentence,” Julio Montenegro, Mairena’s lawyer, told a news conference. “We are going to appeal and will take it to the international courts.”

Since widespread demonstrations began last year, approximately 340 people have been arrested for their role in the protests, while state security forces or government-sponsored gangs have killed around 300 others. This month, a former Nicaraguan National Police lieutenant who fled the country to Mexico testified that the regime had ordered security forces to kill political dissidents or prosecute them as terrorists.

“The orders were precise: they said that the commander has already given orders and there is no problem, we are not going to be prosecuted, there are orders to go out and kill people,” he said. “And the people that are alive, that we manage to seize, we are going to prosecute them for terrorists.”

Reports also surfaced this week of political dissidents imprisoned in the La Modelo de Nicaragua prison in Tipitapa simply disappearing after being beaten and intimidated by “anti-riot police.” Human rights groups are currently investigating their whereabouts. There have also been multiple allegations of torture and sexual abuse of detainees.

Responding to the recent events, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton hinted at further sanctions against Ortega, repeating President Donald Trump’s warning this week that the regime’s days were numbered.

“The Ortega regime has sentenced three farm leaders to 550 years in prison for their roles in protests in 2018, where Ortega’s police forces reportedly killed 300 activists,” he wrote. “As President Trump said Monday, Ortega’s days are numbered and the Nicaraguan people will soon be free.”

As well as cracking down on political dissidents, the regime has also stepped up its repression of other supposed political opposition, targeting institutions such as the media, universities, and the Catholic Church; regularly conducting raids; and engaging in other forms of intimidation.

Coupled with its efforts to bring about regime change in Venezuela, the White House has also taken steps to weaken Ortega’s grip on power through the use of economic sanctions. Last November, the Trump administration sanctioned both Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, as well as other senior regime officials. The sanctions banned the listed individuals from dealing with all American entities as well as froze of all of their U.S.-based assets.

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