Nicaraguan bishop sentenced to 26 years in jail, citizenship revoked

Nicaraguan bishop sentenced

A Nicaraguan Catholic bishop was sentenced to 26 years in prison and had his citizenship revoked by a court in the Central American country.

The sentencing of Bishop Rolando Álvarez (pictured) occurred just a day after President Daniel Ortega criticised the bishop for refusing to leave the country with other political prisoners.

Bishop Álvarez, of the central city of Matagalpa, had been under house arrest and was set to go on trial next week. However, he was taken to prison after he refused to board a plane to the US with 222 other political prisoners. The Biden administration agreed to receive the released prisoners.

The bishop, an outspoken critic of Ortega, had called for electoral reforms and free democratic elections in Nicaragua. Ortega referred to the bishop as “out of his mind” and arrogant in a speech. Ortega also claimed Álvarez had refused to obey the state’s decisions.

The sentence is the longest given to any of Ortega’s opponents since the 2021 presidential election.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader, has been in power since 2007 and controls Nicaragua’s electoral authority, National Assembly, Supreme Court and all of the country’s municipalities.

Relations between the Catholic church, a powerful institution in Nicaragua, and the Ortega government have deteriorated since the 2018 protests in which over 300 people were killed, mostly by government security forces.

Pope Francis concerned

Pope Francis on Sunday spoke of his concern over the imprisonment of Bishop Álvarez in his weekly blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square. “The news from Nicaragua has grieved me not a little and I cannot help but remember with concern the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, whom I love so much and who has been sentenced to 26 years in prison, and also the people who have been taken to the United States,” Pope Francis said.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights called the verdict the “reaffirmation of the total destruction of the rule of law in Nicaragua.” It warned that the bishop’s life and security were in danger.

The US State Department condemned the stripping of the bishop’s citizenship and called for his release, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised the importance of constructive dialogue with Nicaragua.


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