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Nicaraguan Convicted for Waving the Country’s Flag

The prosecution asked for 16 years for supposed drug trafficking. Judges also delivered a guilty verdict to the political prisoner Brayan Cornejo

Upon receiving his guilty verdict on March 3rd, Sergio Beteta once again yelled “Long Live a Free Nicaragua!” The youth was arrested December 21st on Managua’s University Avenue, in front of the Central American University (UCA). Beteta protested there by waving a Nicaraguan flag and burning the FSLN flag.

The young opponent of the regime, Sergio Beteta, at the time of being violently detained by several policemen. La Presna

However, his accusation and the guilty verdict were for supposed illegal arms possession and drug trafficking. These charges are routine for political cases. A judge at the service of the Sandinista regime presided over his case.

The guilty verdict was delivered by Judge Melvin Vargas Garcia, who presides over the Seventh District Criminal Court in Managua. Prosecutor Elvin Diaz immediately asked the judge to impose a sentence of 16 years in jail, plus a large fine.

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Thirty-year-old Beteta refused to sign the court record. Before leaving the courtroom, he loudly protested his “unreal political trial”, reported his defense attorney, Julio Montenegro.

Videos prove Sergio Betata’s true actions

Beteta’s protest was recorded by the internet news site “Articulo 66”. Standing in front of the UCA, Sergio Beteta screamed slogans, burned the Sandinista flag, and held on high the Nicaraguan flag. He continued until the police arrested him. Despite the video, Montenegro points out, the officers who testified at his trial denied that he burned the FSLN flag. They also stated that “he wasn’t holding any flag” in his hands.

Instead, the police assured that the only thing they found was 2,340 grams of marijuana and a firearm. Montenegro insisted that the video evidence “shows a person holding a civic protest on the street.” There was also a photo of him before he was arrested. The prosecutor argued that no one knew who was in the video, because his face was hidden by a mask.

“Only a criminal acting very stupidly would appear openly on the street if they had drugs and firearms,” Montenegro stated. Beteta himself commented to his lawyer that the accusation was ridiculous. In a sarcastic tone, he said: “Of course, I was also carrying a small tank in my backpack.”

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During the initial hearing in January, Beteta scrawled “Long Live a Free Nicaragua” across the court record. That form of protest annoyed the judge. According to Montenegro, she tore up the record and ordered another to be printed.

Verdict will be appealed

Sergio Beteta is one of the self-organized protestors who occupied the Nicaraguan National Autonomous University in Managua in 2018. He had participated in previous protests against Daniel Ortega’s government. He decided to demonstrate once again, against the increasing harassment of the National Police in the final months of 2020.

From jail, the young man has insisted that his peers “mustn’t abandon the political prisoners”. He asked his “family members and the Nicaraguan people” to fast and pray for the freedom of the prisoners of conscience.

Montenegro complained that the regime’s justice system applies maximum sentences for the crimes the political prisoners are accused of. He confirmed that he’ll appeal the judge’s verdict.

A report from Amnesty International recently denounced the regime’s tactics of falsely accusing dissenters of common crimes. “Lawyers representing dozens of people imprisoned for their activism say that the crimes (…) government opponents are most frequently charged with currently include extortion and drug trafficking.” These accusations, the report added, seeks to “damage the reputation” of these people.

Political prisoner Bryan Cornejo also declared guilty

The Ortega-Murillo regime is “waging a war against anyone who criticizes their policies. Using the courts seems to be one of their favorite weapons,” affirmed the Amnesty International report.

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Brayan Cornejo was sentenced to six years in prison for the supposed crime of aggravated theft. Maria Oviedo, his defense lawyer from the Permanent Human Rights Commission denounced the sentence.

At Cornejo’s trial, there was “totally contradictory evidence”. This “compromised the credibility of the witnesses and the veracity of the facts” presented by the Prosecutor’s Office. Despite this, Judge Fatima Rosales proceeded with the sentence, stated Oviedo. She offered these declarations to the news channel “100% Noticias”.

“There were contradictions, intimidation and other occurrences that compromised the credibility of all the witnesses at the trial. The Judge was asked how it was possible that the Public Prosecutor could ask for a guilty verdict knowing all the while that they [the witnesses] had lied shamelessly before the court. (…) But the judge merely dedicated herself to establishing that the Prosecution successfully proved the events,” Maria Oviedo complained.

The lawyer told how the supposed victim contradicted the person claiming to be with him the day of the alleged assault. One said he recognized Brayan because he was wearing a helmet without a visor, and he could see his eyes. Meanwhile, the other affirmed that Brayan had taken the helmet off, and he could see his hair.

Ovieda stated that she will appeal the sentence pronounced against 23-year-old Brayan Cornejo.

Milton Cornejo, Brayan’s father, stated that the young dissenter was intercepted last November 29th at 11 pm. He was accosted by four men on motorcycles, who beat him. Later, other police agents arrived and took him to the Managua’s District Five police station. Brayan’s father insisted that it was all “staged”, because Brayan is a youth leader of the Farmers’ Movement.

Condemnation from the UN Human Rights Commissioner

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently reported to the Human Rights Council on the Nicaraguan situation. She urged the Ortega government to “put an immediate end to arbitrary arrests, undue restrictions to free circulation, threats and other forms of intimidation.” She further noted, “these tactics are employed against people participating in peaceful meetings and other political activities.

In a report presented February 25th at the Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva Switzerland, Bachelet cited statistics gathered in December 2020. As of that date, according to members of civil society, at least 110 dissenters remained arbitrarily imprisoned.  All were people who had participated in protests or collaborated with opposition groups before being arrested. Of them, 13 have been in prison since 2018.

“I call on the government to free all those arbitrarily deprived of their freedom in the context of the protests, or for expressing dissident opinions,” Bachelet exhorted.

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