Nicaragua police free students jailed amid violent protests

April 25 (UPI) — Dozens of students arrested last week during violent anti-government protests in Nicaragua have been released by police, officials said.

Police said the detainees were handed over to relatives, but did not specify how many were let go. Some accused police of beating and torturing the demonstrators while in captivity.

The students were arrested during rioting and protests that began April 18 in the capital Managua, over proposed social security changes. At least 26 died in the clashes.

Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators, and journalist Angel Gahona was shot during a live broadcast Saturday.

Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega attempted to quell the protests Sunday by revoking the social security legislation.

Monday, the U.S. State Department ordered government employees and relatives to leave the Central American nation. A day later, the Roman Catholic Church agreed to mediate the issue between the protesters and Ortega.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes called on Nicaraguans and the government to “avoid all acts of violence, [and acts that are] disrespectful of public and private property.”

Vice President Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife, told protesters Tuesday there was “faith that we are going to go forward united.”

The United Nations Human Rights Office has called for an investigation into the deaths that resulted from the riots.

“We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings,” an agency spokesperson said. “We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that there are prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigations into these deaths.”

The White House condemned the violence.

“The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic international community,” it said in a statement.