Álvarez’s sentence was received with great concern by Pope Francis, who compared Ortega’s Nicaragua to Nazi Germany. As far as is known, Álvarez is being held in La Modelo prison, reportedly without contact with his family or access to legal advice.
ADF International announced the filing of its petition Sept. 14, saying there are “no effective avenues for legal recourse available in Nicaragua” under Ortega, who has effectively ruled the country as a dictator for years.
“Those concerned with basic human rights should be outraged by the crisis endured by people of faith in Nicaragua,” said Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for Latin America for ADF International and lead lawyer on Álvarez’s case.
“For simply fulfilling his duties as a bishop and preaching the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church, Bishop Álvarez has been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. This is a clear violation of not only his human right to freedom of expression but also to profess his faith and share his beliefs as a pastor. ADF International is honored to bring this crucial case to the commission, and we look forward to securing justice for Bishop Álvarez, and hopefully, an end to religious persecution in Nicaragua. No one should be persecuted or imprisoned for sharing their faith.”
ADF says Álvarez’s charges were based on homilies he had delivered as a result of what he considered a “religious duty to preach about governmental human rights violations.” He was convicted after a trial that he did not know was taking place, and at which he, therefore, could not testify nor cross-examine witnesses.
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, whose mission is to promote and protect human rights, according to its website. The IACHR and Inter-American Court of Human Rights have previously condemned his imprisonment and urged Nicaragua to immediately release Bishop Álvarez and to adopt the necessary measures to effectively protect his life, health, and personal integrity. Ortega’s government has so far ignored the commission.