The sustained effort to silence dissenting voices in Nicaragua directly targets the Catholic Church once again. In less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has gone through more than 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, the expulsion of the Missionaries of Charity, and the ongoing trial of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, accused of “crimes against spirituality.” Now, Ortega’s dictatorship has found a Catholic priest, imprisoned since August 2022, guilty of “conspiracy” against the state.
According to local Nicaraguan media, Judge Nancy Aguirre found Nicaraguan priest Oscar Benavidez Dávila guilty of the crimes of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.”
The prosecution is asking for a sentence of eight years in prison for Benaevidez, who is the pastor of the Holy Spirit Parish in Mulukukú, in the Diocese of Siuna.
After celebrating Mass on August 14, 2022, Benavidez was irregularly arrested and imprisoned for more than a month in the infamous detention center of El Chipote, a prison notorious for torturing political opponents of the regime. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) has repeatedly denounced the facility as a psychological torture center. He was formally accused of “conspiracy” in September 2022, and then transferred in October 2022 to the Jorge Navarro Penitentiary System, a prison known as “La Modelo,” in the town of Tipitapa.
According to the priest’s defense, his “crime” was supposedly expressing his opinion in a social media post.
Benavidez is the ninth Nicaraguan priest accused of the crime of “conspiracy,” including the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez.