The Ortega-Murillo regime in Nicaragua exhibited prisoners of conscience in “informative hearings” at the Managua Judicial Complex between August 30 and September 1. The regime-run media broadcast the proceedings, branding the prisoners as “terrorists, coup plotters, and homeland traitors,” pointing out that most of them supported in one way or another the massive social protests of 2018. With these appearances, the relatives of the inmates were able to witness the deteriorated physical state of their loved ones.
“Through the relatives […] we’ve had information of the different tortures to which they are subjected: sun deprivation, food deprivation, deprivation of communication with their relatives, most of those who have children are not allowed any type of communication,” Juan Carlos Arce, defense lawyer for the Nicaragua Nunca Más Human Rights Collective, told Diálogo on September 18. “In Ortega’s prisons they commit torture, in Ortega’s prisons people are subjected to inhumane conditions, in Ortega’s prisons people die.”
On August 31, the Nicaraguan National Police exhibited Ana Margarita Vijil, Suyén Barahona, and Dora María Téllez, leaders of the Nicaraguan Democratic Union; Álvaro Vargas, vice-president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP); Luis Rivas Anduray, former president of private bank Banco de la Producción de Nicaragua; Félix Maradiaga, former presidential pre-candidate; activist Tamara Dávila; opposition member Irving Larios; lawyer Róger Reyes; and Juan Lorenzo Holmann, general manager of the newspaper La Prensa.
“I didn’t recognize him; he looks completely deteriorated. I never imagined that my dad would look this skinny, weak, and convalescent,” Renata Holmann said to news site Confidencial de Nicaragua. “He had a heart surgery months before […]; they repaired his mitral valve and this problem has not had a follow up. In addition, they discovered a severe problem in his aorta that the doctor said had to be constantly monitored.”
On August 30, the Nicaraguan regime exhibited presidential pre-candidates Miguel Mora Barberena, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, and Medardo Mairena; Walter Gómez Marcos Fletes and Pedro Vásquez, who have ties with the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation; COSEP president Michael Healy; and electoral expert José Antonio Peraza.
“[The prisoners] show symptoms of a form of torture known in the forensic field as white torture. This type of torture is aimed at sensory suppression,” Yader Morazán, a lawyer who specializes in the Nicaraguan Administration of Justice told Diálogo. “What you observe and describe as lost looks, with dilated pupils, is a consequence of suddenly coming out of a cell that’s the same color […] that’s why they make efforts to see their surroundings.”
“Informative hearings are an invention of the regime, they do not exist in criminal legislation nor in procedural legislation,” added Arce. “What exists is an exhibition of the regime of political prisoners, aimed at generating and instilling more fear as part of a State terrorism policy.”
The Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, a human rights advocates’ collective effort to update and verify the list of prisoners of conscience since April 2018, registered 195 political prisoners as of August 31, 2022. According to the organization, the total number of prisoners is underreported “due to lack of access to public information and as a consequence of the environment of repression and threat, and the police state in Nicaragua.”
“This is not a circumstantial persecution in view of the upcoming electoral farce. The regime knows perfectly well that there is nothing to stop its objective of taking over all municipal governments. We are facing an evident decision to annihilate them politically and physically,” nongovernmental organization Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said. “We call on all Nicaraguan civil society organizations, human rights organizations, and those monitoring the crisis from abroad, to value and prioritize this situation in their agenda […] and promote actions in accordance with the gravity and urgency that the case deserves.”