Wednesday, July 19, 2023

U.S. State Department official calls for release of imprisoned bishop, priest in Nicaragua

US report faults Nicaragua for severe violations of religious freedom | Crux

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, has called for the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in Nicaragua to unconditionally release Father Fernando Zamora Silva and Bishop Rolando Álvarez as well as all those unjustly imprisoned in the Central American country.

“We call for the unconditional release of Bishop Álvarez, Father Zamora, and all those who have been unjustly detained for exercising their constitutional and human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. We condemn the repression against religious communities by the Ortega-Murillo regime,” Nichols tweeted July 14.

Zamora, the chancellor of the Siuna Diocese, was arrested July 9 in the capital, Managua, where he was visiting.

Former presidential candidate Félix Maradiaga reported that the arrest took place near St. Louis Gonzaga Parish, when the priest was leaving “a Mass in which he had participated as a guest at a religious celebration presided over by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes. So far, there are no known charges or specific accusations against the priest.”

Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of Esteli, was unjustly sentenced on Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison as a “traitor to the homeland.”

The day before, he refused to be deported to the U.S. along with a group of 222 political prisoners. The exiles were stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship by the dictatorship and their assets in Nicaragua were seized.

In recent days, the prelate had been briefly released from the “La Modelo” prison, reputed for torturing political prisoners, and there was speculation about his departure from the country. However, the negotiations for his release failed and he was returned to prison on July 5.