(CNN, KYMA/KECY) – Nicaragua released more than 200 political prisoners this week, sending nearly all of them to the US
Many were arrested in 2018 in a wave of repression by President Daniel Ortega.
Washington welcomed their release and promised to provide them with medical and legal assistance.
“Well, you can imagine being in a cage for a year and eight months. It was a very vulnerable situation, as you can imagine,” said Nicaraguan political leader Juan Sebastian Chamorro.
Chamorro is a free man for the first time in 20 months.
“I was taken at night without a court order. I was only taken by the police. They attacked my house and took me away,” Chamorro said.
The Nicaraguan political leader is one of 222 former political prisoners, including a US citizen, who were released from prison on Wednesday and Thursday and boarded a plane bound for the United States.
Kevin Sullivan, the US ambassador to Nicaragua, said: “The US government is providing them with various types of assistance to help them adjust their situation in Washington.”
Nicaraguan President Ortega has denied that his country has negotiated with the United States for the release of prisoners. Also, Washington has been very careful to say that withdrawal is a unilateral decision.
“The release of these people by the government of Nicaragua is a constructive step towards the elimination of human rights violations in this country. This action opens the door to discuss other issues of mutual concern,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Most of the political prisoners sent to the United States on Thursday were captured during a crackdown on political opposition leaders and dissidents in 2021 as Nicaraguan dictator Ortega prepares to run for re-election.
Among those arrested were at least seven potential presidential candidates, whose voices were immediately silenced by the regime. Unopposed, Ortega easily won a fourth consecutive term just a few months later.
“Our legal system is a plan for abuse of rights [Nicaraguan] legal system since the conquest. Our representatives did not give us the right to defend ourselves. I have never spoken to my lawyer. I have never spoken to my attorney in private, which is a constitutional right. And I was sentenced to 13 years in prison without any evidence, in fact,” Chamorro said.
After spending years in prison, the freedmen received another humiliation on their way out: the regime stripped them of their Nicaraguan citizenship.
“In Your Soul”
Later, the government media was labeled as “traitors of the country” by many officials.
But political activist Felix Maradiaga, one of the freed, said no government action could take away his true identity.
“Being Nicaraguan is in your soul,” Maradiaga said.
“No law by [national] the assembly will remove my Nicaraguanness from something that will stay with me until I die.”