Catholic bishop arrested by dictatorship in Nicaragua to be put on trial

Bishop Rolando Álvarez Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua (on the left), during his hearing on Jan. 10, 2023. | Credit: Judiciary of Nicaragua

Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who has been held under house arrest in Nicaragua by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, since August 2022, will be put on trial, accused of “conspiracy” and spreading “fake news” against the regime.

In a hearing held today, amid complaints of serious irregularities in the process, the case against Álvarez, of the Diocese of Matagalpa, was referred “to trial.”

According to a statement from the judiciary, “in the Managua Criminal District Courts, the initial hearing of the criminal proceeding was held, in which Rolando José Álvarez Lagos appeared as accused of the crimes of conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty and the propagation of fake news through information and communication technologies to the detriment of the Nicaraguan State and society.”

“The judicial authority reviewed the precautionary measures ordered in the preliminary hearing, maintaining house arrest, likewise, admitted the exchange of evidentiary information and referred the case to trial,” the bulletin stated.

The Ortega dictatorship’s judiciary also stated that Father Uriel Antonio Vallejos, who managed to leave Nicaragua and has been living in exile in Costa Rica for a few months, is accused “of the same crimes” for which “the official letter to INTERPOL for his capture remains in effect.”

During the early morning hours of Aug. 19, 2022, the Nicaraguan police broke into the chancery of the Diocese of Matagalpa and arrested Bishop Álvarez, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the dictatorial regime of Daniel Ortega, which has ruled Nicaragua for more than 15 years.

Hours later, the police revealed that they had transferred the bishop to Managua and were holding him under house arrest.

Nicaraguan lawyer Yader Morazán, a human rights defender living in exile in the United States, in a Twitter post blasted Judge Gloria Saavedra as “today’s executioner.”

“She is one of the new appointments of 2019, replacing the first executioners who tried the protesters of 2018 and who were promoted to magistrates. She has not even had a judicial career, because she was a coordinator,” the lawyer said.

In the Nicaraguan judicial system, judicial facilitators also known as coordinators “are community leaders, volunteers, with a community spirit at the service of the administration of justice. They do not judge cases, they are not public defenders, they are not prosecutors.”

Morazán also said that the public defender assigned to Bishop Álvarez, Jennifer Hernández, “is the regime’s favorite public defense attorney to hold hearings against priests.”

Lawyer and investigator Martha Patricia Molina revealed in her report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church (2018–2022)” that the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has suffered almost 400 attacks at the hands of the Ortega dictatorship.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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