Meet the priest the Nicaraguan dictatorship wants to put away for eight years

Father Oscar Benavidez Father Oscar Benavidez was found guilty of two crimes on Jan. 16, 2023. | YouTube EWTN Noticias

Father Oscar Benavidez was found guilty of two crimes at a Jan. 16 trial riddled with irregularities and consisting of only one hearing.

His service

Benavidez, 50, is originally from the town of San Isidro in the Matagalpa district of Nicaragua.

He was ordained in 2009 and has been serving the Church as a priest for 13 years.

Shortly after his ordination, he was appointed the first pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, and in 2016 he was appointed adviser to the Diocese of Matagalpa’s Youth Ministry.

After eight years as pastor of St. John Vianney, Benavidez left Nicaragua to study in Spain. Upon his return, he was appointed parochial vicar of Our Lord of Esquipulas.

In 2018, when the priest’s mother died, Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa was the celebrant at the funeral Mass, and Benavidez concelebrated. 

Álvarez has also been charged with conspiracy. The prelate has been held under house arrest since August 2022, and on Jan. 10 his case was referred to trial. 

The arrest

In May 2022, Benavidez was sent on mission to the Diocese of Siuna, where he was appointed pastor of the Holy Spirit parish in the town of Mulukukú.

During his Masses, the priest denounced the injustices committed by the Ortega dictatorship.

According to The Voice of America, after celebrating Mass at Conception of Mary chapel on Aug. 14, 2022, during which he meditated on the persecution of the prophets, he was arrested by police.

They got him out of his car and took him away with no further explanation.

The Diocese of Siuna published a statement denouncing the priest’s abduction, while the faithful prayed for him and asked God to “save Nicaragua” and protect Benavidez and all the persecuted priests.

A trial riddled with irregularities

According to the Nicaraguan media outlet 100% Noticias, Judge Nancy Aguirre Gudiel of the Tenth Court of the Criminal Trial District of Managua found Benavidez guilty of the crimes of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.”

According to the priest’s defense, his “crime” was allegedly expressing his opinion in a social media post, the contents of which apparently have never been published by the court. 

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The Nicaraguan news outlet Mosaico reported that the only hearing for the trial took place in less than eight hours.

The prosecutor’s office brought in residents of Mulukukú as witnesses, one of whom didn’t even know Benavidez.

Judge Aguirre disallowed several pieces of evidence presented by the defense, including the testimony of Bishop Álvarez.

In addition, in the charges against the priest, Álvarez is accused of being a “ringleader of illegal actions.”

The judge set Jan. 24 as the date for a possible sentencing hearing, although she also left open the possibility of issuing an official decree.

In total there are nine Nicaraguan priests whom the dictatorship has accused of the crime of “conspiracy.”

Níckolas García, a journalist for EWTN Noticias, contributed to this article.

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