Archive photo of Bishop Rolando Alvarez Archive photo of Bishop Rolando Alvarez  (AFP or licensors)

EU bishops call for release of detained priests in Nicaragua

The President of COMECE is calling on authorities in Nicaragua to immediately release clerics and faithful who are in detention and under criminal prosecution.

By Linda Bordoni and James Blears

The legal system in Nicaragua has jailed four priests and sentenced them to ten years in prison, as part of its comprehensive ongoing crackdown against dissent, while Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa continues to be held under house arrest.

In a letter, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) expressed solidarity to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and appealed for the release of the detainees.

The sentence was announced on Monday after a closed-doors trial. The convicted priests had worked with Bishop Alvarez who has been held under house arrest since August 2022.

Cardinal Hollerich called on the Nicaraguan national authorities to immediately release Bishop Rolando Álvarez and the other detainees, falsely accused of conspiracy against national integrity and of disseminating fake news.

“We are closely following the development of the situation in Nicaragua, marked by the persecution of the Catholic Church and its faithful,” the letter reads.

“As Bishops of COMECE we are committed to promote freedom, democracy and justice in Nicaragua through our regular dialogue with the representatives of the EU institutions.”

Closed-doors trial

After a so-called trial behind closed doors last month, the four priests were convicted of conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty, plus spreading false news.

The Authorities appointed defence counsel as well as prosecutors. Two seminarians and a cameramen were also found guilty.

They were all working with the Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Alvarez. He`s under house arrest and it`ll soon be his turn to face the justice of the government and its inevitable resulting profound displeasure. 

Another priest in a separate trail has fared the same. Each defendant has now been imprisoned for ten years. 

Crackdown policy against dissent

The Administration of President Daniel Ortega and His Wife Rosario Murillo who`s Vice President, has already expelled the Mother Teresa Sisters of Charity and the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, in 2022.

Protests in 2018, led to a nationwide crackdown. In 2021 it intensified, as seven potential Presidential Candidates were arrested and jailed. So were dozens of opposition politicians and activists. It`s emerged from quite recently introduced treason laws in Nicaragua. They have blanket application, covering as well as smothering a very wide range of political activity, or dissent, including protests. 

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08 February 2023, 12:29