NSCAG debunks Amnesty claims about political prisoners
NSCAG News | on: Saturday, 22 September 2018
By Louise Richards, Trade Union and Communications Coordinator
The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group (NSCAG) is based in the UK and has a long history of building trade union and broader solidarity with Nicaragua.
In its latest attempt to demonise Nicaragua, Amnesty International once again nails its colours to the mast of the right wing opposition. Its latest ‘Urgent Action’ campaign – see link here – denouncing the ‘wave of detentions of students and activists in Nicaragua’ is yet more proof that Amnesty has given up all pretence to be an impartial source of information about human rights in Nicaragua. Its report completely ignores the fact that those detained are not victims but the perpetrators of violent crimes.
In addition to kidnapping, torture and murder, those who have been arrested are accused of sexual assault, looting, theft and the burning and destruction of public and private buildings, including municipal offices, health centres, historical places, private homes, schools and even pre-schools, universities, police stations and public and private transport units. Amnesty fails to mention any of this, preferring instead to stick to the myth that ‘students’ and ‘peaceful protesters; have been criminalised. They fail to mention the murder of Nicaraguan citizens, including 22 police officers, one of whom was tortured and his body burned on a public road. They fail to mention the murder of Sandinistas such as Lenin Mendiola, who died as a result of gunshots fired directly from an opposition march in Matagalpa on 11 August; they fail to mention the kidnapping, torture and murder of Bismarck Martinez Sanchez, another prominent Sandinista. It is the perpetrators of crimes such as these who have been arrested; these are the people being called ‘political prisoners’ by Amnesty International.
One case named by Amnesty, that of Amaya Eva Coppens Zamora who is a dual Belgian/Nicaraguan citizen, is being picked out by campaigners as an example of an innocent ‘political prisoner’ who was merely exercising her right to protest. In fact, she has been arrested for various crimes, committed when she was in charge of road blocks erected by protesters in the city of León and elsewhere. These crimes include causing grievous bodily harm to two people kidnapped, assaulted and robbed at those road blocks.
Coppens Zamora is currently under arrest awaiting trial on those very serious criminal charges brought by the Public Prosecutor’s office based on the testimony of various witnesses, as well as material and forensic evidence. Local media have published photographs and reports establishing that Coppens Zamora is in good health and has received visits from her parents.
All those arrested have been detained in accordance with the law, which allows the police to detain a person for up to 48 hours on suspicion of participation in a criminal activity, and all detentions are fully reported in the national media, with an explanation as to the crime that people are accused of (see https://www.policia.gob.
Gustavo Porras, President of Nicaragua’s National Assembly, has issued a statement summarising the situation of those detained for offences carried out during the attempted coup in Nicaragua. The Government reports the following:-
204 people under arrest for crimes of terrorism or criminal violence detained in the prison system on the orders of the competent court.
187 are men: 181 indicted and awaiting criminal trial and 6 already sentenced by the courts but pending appeal
17 are women: 16 indicted and awaiting criminal trial and one already sentenced by the courts but pending appeal
All detainees have access to lawyers of their choice and if they cannot afford one the public office will assign a public defender) and all are being presented to court within the legal time framework.
In all cases, the prison system has guaranteed:
• Medical check-up on entry to the prison system
• Provision of bedding and prison uniform
• Basic medical care depending on the accused’s medical needs
• Fortnightly family visits of 3 continuous hours by up to 8 relatives per prisoner
• Conjugal visits every fortnight for 2 continuous hours
• Reception of food and articles of primary necessity once a week handed over by the prisoner’s family in the prison’s area of reception of packets
• open air activity twice a week in the prison’s recreation facility
• legal visits and court procedures in accordance with the criminal code.
ADDENDUM BY CHUCK KAUFMAN
What is a political prisoner?
What is a political prisoner? Well, I think we can all agree that Lula in Brazil is a political prisoner. The charges against him were transparently trumped up to keep him from running for president in a race he would be sure to win. If you don’t agree with me that Mumia Abu Jamal is a political prisoner, that’s okay; I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. Edwin Espinal in Honduras is a political prisoner too. He is a long-time leader of the opposition to the 2009 coup and is imprisoned without a court date in a maximum security prison, probably for the next two years. He’s got trumped up charges from the protests following the fraudulent 2017 presidential election.
There are people in Nicaragua right now who are going before the courts in the aftermath of the political violence in the country since April. We’re not talking about a broken Starbucks or Wells Fargo Bank window, we’re talking about 22 dead policemen and 200+ civilians. We’re talking about people in demonstrations for and against the government shot in the head and chest by professional snipers. We’re talking about markets and government buildings and the homes of government supporters burned to the ground. We’re talking about robbery at the street barricades and sexual assault by young men “manning” the blockades. We’re talking about violence that goes beyond political speech and is a crime no matter the circumstances under which it is committed.
Louise’s article above names some names and names some crimes. It also explains what rights and what treatment arrested individuals receive. Any country that does not guarantee this treatment of its delinquents, like Honduras, should be sanctioned by people of goodwill throughout the world. But such horrendous crimes cannot just be written off. The families of the dead deserve justice. The merchants burned out of their market stalls deserve justice. The people whose homes were torched or whose vital records were destroyed at city hall deserve justice. Nicaragua’s justice system is no more perfect than our own, but neither is it as corrupt as the Honduran judicial system or the Colombian judicial system or the Mexican judicial system.
Investigations are ongoing into the violence committed from mid-April to early August. People against whom there is evidence will be tried for the crimes they are alleged to have committed and many of them will go to jail. Remember that Nicaragua doesn’t have capital punishment and even the murderous members of Somoza’s National Guard captured in 1979 only received 30 year sentences which were commuted after just a few years. Justice will prevail in Nicaragua, and those who go to jail will not be political prisoners; they will be violent criminals who have been brought to justice.
By Nan McCurdy
Felix Maradiaga Accused of Financing Terrorism
On September 24, the Public Ministry emitted an order to arrest Felix Alejandro Maradiaga Blandon and two others for organized crime and financing terrorism. The other accused men are Pio Humberto Arellano Molina and Jean Carlos Manuel Lopez Gutierrez. Maradiaga used the organization that he directs, Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) to train groups of people who then participated, beginning April 18th, in actions to destabilize and create chaos around the country in order to strike fear and terror in the population.
Part of the accusation states that Maradiaga developed, under the title of leadership courses, methods that induced people to participate in violence and extremism to cause chaos and terror. He also used the social networks as a means to make multiply their calls to violence. He was one of promotors of the Leadership Institute of Civil Society that trained for terrorist activities in hotels and universities in Managua.
The students were taught how to make false internet profiles and send messages that would cause terror and violence. One example was when hundreds of thousands of messages were sent out saying that the government killed a student on April 18, when no one was killed that day. However, this led to great violence during the following days. Thus began a series of violent events that shattered the public order across the nation. Groups also took over universities and created organized crime centers. There are videos of Maradiaga’s April 22 meeting with armed men at the UPOLI university. Two other men at that meeting are accused of being among the people who led the UPOLI takeover. Part of the accusation against Maradiaga is related to that meeting where he supposedly agreed to get money and channel it to them for criminal acts. (Tu Nueva Radio Ya, Canal 2, Sept. 24)
Another Young Life Taken by the not-so-peaceful-march of the Opposition
On Sunday, September 23, the opposition held another march with guns and mortars and with a route that went through the neighborhoods of June 9, December 2, and Americas No. 3, firing on people and homes. Many families defended themselves. Around 11:25, in the crossfire, Abraham Lacayo and Max Andres Romero were wounded – Romero died later. They were both armed. There are now very good videos of the armed protesters firing at different people.
Last Saturday, these same groups, in a different so-called peaceful march, attacked the population and their homes in the neighborhoods of Ducuali, Venezuela and Rubenia. Roger Antonio Lopez was seriously wounded when he was beaten, tortured then spray-painted blue and white. He was told he was being tortured because he was a Sandinista.
In their attempt to create chaos, the demonstrators were also tearing up the street and building a roadblock. Neighbors were able to stop this and replace the pavement pieces.https://www.tn8.tv/
Three Men on Trial for Burning Radio Station in Managua on May 24th
Marlon Fonseca Roman, Kevin Espinoza and Hanssel Espinoza are on trial in Managua for arson in the burning of Tu Nueva Radio Ya, as well as for murder, arms trafficking and other crimes. Twenty videos of the fire at the radio station were shown, and testimony of employees who were inside the radio station while it was burning was heard. The accused were captured on July 11 near a roadblock in Nindiri with AK47’s and a large cache of munitions. (La Voz del Sandinismo, Sept. 24)
Growth in Exports
Minister of Commerce Orlando Solórzano said Nicaraguan exports totaled US$3.5 billion during the first 8 months of this year, 1.7% above the amount registered in the same period of 2017. Solórzano said the economy is recovering and is progressing on the path of normalization, overcoming the negative impact of the violence generated by the attempted coup. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 25)
Extending Electricity Coverage
The Nicaragua Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and the National Electrical Transmission Company (ENATREL) installed electricity service in the homes of 815 inhabitants in Siempre Viva Community, Matagalpa Department, last Friday. The US$55,000 investment is part of the National Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy Program (PNESER), being carried out by the Nicaragua government in the 153 municipalities of the country. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 25)
Government and Neighborhood Practice What to Do in the Case of a Strong Earthquake
On Saturday in the URSS neighborhood 70% of the population participated in an emergency drill practicing what to do in the case of a 7.2 earthquake. Personnel from the health center, the closest hospital, the police, the army, civil defense and the fire station participated with the population. https://www.tn8.
The Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR) Held Its First International Gastronomical Festival
Twenty-three countries participated in the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism’s first International Gastronomical Festival in Managua showing their typical dishes, culture and dances. Taiwan won first-place, Iran second-place and El Salvador came in third. See photos: https://www.
Thousands Participate in the Walk for Justice and to Remember Rigoberto Lopez Perez
On Saturday, September 22 thousands of families walked about 8 km in support of justice for the victims of the coup attempt and in memory of Rigoberto Lopez Perez, poet, artist and composer who assassinated the first Somoza – Anastasio Somoza Garcia, on September 21, 1956. Lopez Perez was instantly killed. This is the 62nd anniversary. See photos:https://www.