Jailed Nicaraguan opposition figures face ill treatment, relatives say
Nicaraguan Catholic bishop Rolando Alvarez has launched a hunger strike in protest against what he considers a persecution and police siege against him for speaking out over government repression of the opposition STR AFP

Relatives of more than 180 jailed opponents of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government on Monday denounced the ill treatment they said had been inflicted on the detainees, while Catholic leaders complained of "repression" and harassment by authorities.

Five organizations representing relatives of imprisoned opposition figures launched an "urgent appeal" for their immediate release because of their "extreme physical and mental deterioration."

The imprisoned opponents are victims of a "policy of ill-treatment (...) in order to exhaust, exterminate or mutilate" them, said a joint press release.

More than 40 opposition figures accused of "undermining national integrity" and money laundering were arrested in the months running up to last November's presidential election.

Seven of them were Ortega's rivals in the presidential election, and their detention gave him an easy return to power for a fourth consecutive term.

The election was slammed as a "pantomime" in Brussels and Washington.

Since February, at least 45 opponents of the government have been sentenced to terms of up to 13 years in prison on charges of plotting to overthrow Ortega with US backing.

Relatives of the prisoners have frequently criticized conditions inside the prisons that sap the detainees' health to the point where they need emergency hospitalization.

In February, Hugo Torres, a hero of the Sandinista guerrilla movement who fought with Ortega against the dictatorship of the Somoza dynasty but later turned against his old comrade in arms, died in hospital custody.

The organizations of prisoners' relatives expressed particular concern over the health of Nidia Barbosa, a 66-year-old activist who suffers from "serious heart problems" and who was hospitalized last week.

The relatives also voiced solidarity with Rolando Alvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa in the north, who has been holed up in his church since Thursday and who started a hunger strike to protest the police surveillance he says he's been the target of since denouncing the repression of the opposition.

Harvy Padilla, a parish priest in the southern city of Masaya, said that police are also preventing him from leaving his church, and that on Sunday they banned his congregation from attending mass.

© 2022 AFP