In a new attack on the Catholic Church, the Nicaraguan dictatorship led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, sentenced three priests, a deacon, two seminarians, and a layman from the Diocese of Matagalpa to 10 years in prison.
According to reports from the local newspaper La Prensa and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the sentence was issued on Feb. 6 by Judge Nadia Tardencilla of the Second Criminal Trial District.
The sentence consists of five years for the crime of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and five years for “spreading fake news” with an additional 800 days monetary fine based on the convicted person’s daily salary.
The convicted priests are Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, 50, rector of the John Paul II University; Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral; and José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral.
Also sentenced were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González, 27; seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza, 19, and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira, 23; and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores, 32.
The seven were found guilty on Jan. 27 and were awaiting sentencing. In a separate trial, Father Oscar Benavidez was also found guilty of the same charges and sentenced Feb. 4 to 10 years in prison.
The regime announced Jan. 10 that the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, who has been under house arrest since Aug. 19, 2022, will stand trial accused of conspiracy. The prelate has not yet been sentenced.
The CENIDH charged that the sentence issued against these seven men is “a new legal aberration” that also “disqualified them for life from holding public office and popular election.”
“We at the CENIDH condemn these perverse actions of the regime that violate human rights. We demand immediate freedom for them and all political prisoners,” the organization added.