Nicaragua sentences journalist to 13 years for ‘conspiracy’

Miguel Mora is latest opposition figure convicted and sentenced amid crackdown on dissent in Central American nation.

Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mora speaks to the press after his release from prison, at his home in Managua, Nicaragua, in 2019.
The trials of 46 opposition figures, including seven presidential hopefuls such as Miguel Mora, started on February 1 [Alfredo Zuniga/AP Photo]

A judge in Nicaragua has sentenced former presidential hopeful and journalist Miguel Mora to 13 years in prison for “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”.

Mora was the latest in a series of opposition political figures to be convicted and sentenced after trials lasting a few hours. The trials of the 46 opposition figures, including seven presidential hopefuls such as Mora, started on February 1.

The US and European Union have slapped sanctions on members of President Daniel Ortega’s government for crushing internal dissent and for undemocratic practices.

Mora’s lawyer, Gerardo Gonzalez, told the 100 percent Noticias television station — where Mora served as director until he was imprisoned — that the sentence was handed down on Wednesday.

Mora’s hopes to run in the November 7 elections were truncated when Ortega ordered him and six other contenders arrested in May and June, allowing Ortega to run almost unopposed.

On Tuesday, sportswriter and government critic Miguel Mendoza was convicted on similar charges, as was former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, 76.

Both are expected to be sentenced soon.

President of Nicaragua's National Assembly Gustavo Porras and Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega hold hands next to Vice President Rosario Murillo, during the inauguration of Ortega's fourth consecutive term in office, in Managua, Nicaragua.
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega (centre with sash) was inaugurated to a fourth consecutive term in Managua on January 10 [Zurimar Campos/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters]

Among those already convicted are former Sandinista rebel commander Dora María Tellez, 65, who led an assault on the National Palace in 1978 during the Somoza family dictatorship, holding congress members hostage in exchange for the release of rebel prisoners.

Following Anastasio Somoza’s overthrow the next year, Tellez served as health minister in the first Sandinista government, which was led by Ortega from 1979 to 1990.

She later split with Ortega and became a leader of the opposition Sandinista Renovation Movement. The former leader of that movement, Ana Margarita Vijil, was found guilty of the same charges.

Lawyer Vilma Nunez, who leads the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, had predicted the hearings would be only for show, with the outcomes already concluded.

“This looks like it will be preordained convictions of innocent people,” Nunez said.

“Nobody should be confused. These are not trials,” Nunez said. “These are repressive farces that the regime uses to issue convictions and continue to intimidate the people.”

The ruling Sandinista Front and its allies control Nicaragua’s congress and all government institutions. After leading the revolutionary government, Ortega served as president from 1985 to 1990, before being re-elected to power in 2007.

Source: AP