A judge sentenced 4 Catholic Nicaraguan priests and 2 seminarians to a 10-year prison term this past Monday.
The sustained effort to silence dissenting voices in Nicaragua directly targets the Catholic Church once again. In less than five 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, a Nicaraguan judge sentenced four Catholic priests to a 10-year prison term this past Monday. The priests were charged with “treason” and “spreading fake news” – the same charges that another Nicaraguan priest, Oscar Benavidez Dávila, was found guilty of this past January.
According to Reuters, two Catholic seminarians were also sentenced to a decade in prison, on the same charges. The judge in charge of the initial hearing, which took place January 10, had already sentenced the priests and the seminarians, who were accompanying Bishop Álvarez when he was irregularly detained, to 90 days in prison. The six men belong to Nicaragua’s Matagalpa diocese, led by Bishop Rolando Alvarez.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez, of the Nicaraguan diocese of Matagalpa, was indicted on charges of conspiracy during an initial hearing, in which he was ordered to remain under house arrest. Álvarez is accused of “crimes of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news through information and communication technologies to the detriment of the Nicaraguan state and society.”
Rolando Álvarez: The first bishop to be arrested and indicted since 2007
Bishop Rolando Álvarez was taken into custody by police on August 19, along with six other priests and six laymen, after being forcibly imprisoned for two weeks in the Curia for allegedly having attempted to “organize violent groups” with “the aim of destabilizing the Nicaraguan State and attacking the constitutional authorities,” as read in the police report.
The Bishop was subsequently transferred to his private residence in Managua under house arrest, while the other people arrested were taken to a detention center known as El Chipote. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) has repeatedly denounced the facility as a psychological torture center.