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Ortega pauses political trials of opponents

Judges argue “work overload” or “force majeure causes” to extend the deadlines established by law to hold the trials.

TODAY NICARAGUA – The judges in charge of the cases against some thirty political prisoners stopped setting the dates for their trials. Hiding behind the arguments of “work overload” or “force majeure causes,” they suspended the statutory imposed limits and stated they will notify the parties through a writ.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (R) and his wife Vice-President Rosario Murillo attend an anniversary ceremony for the birth of Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca Amador in Managua on June 23, 2021 Photo: Nicaraguan Presidency / Handout

Legal experts consider such situations to be “a legal dirty trick” to extend the time of arrest for opponents of the Ortega-Murillo regime.

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Of the 39 political prisoners that the regime has captured since the end of May in the context of the electoral process, 35 have already been accused of the alleged crimes of conspiracy and money laundering, cases that are of complex proceedings, according to Article 135 of the Criminal Code.

This implies that the trials could last up to 12 months, counting from the first hearing that was held in the first week of September, when some of the prisoners completed 90 days of arrest.

A relative of a political prisoner, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals against him or his family member under arrest, said that “none of the cases has a trial date,” so his assessment is that “they are held in a legal limbo,” since they are no longer in the hearing process, but their cases are stuck in the courts.

Confidencial confirmed that the cases against the political prisoners Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Felix Maradiaga, Arturo Cruz, Jose Adan Aguerri, Violeta Granera, Jose Pallais and Tamara Davila, are in the Fifth Criminal District Court of Managua, but the count of the maximum time limit for the trial has been interrupted.

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Likewise, in the Ninth Criminal District Court of Managua, the period for holding the trial against political prisoners Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, Walter Gomez, Marcos Fletes, Pedro Vasquez and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Barrios is suspended.

“Excess Workload”

Gerardo Gonzalez, defense attorney for journalist Miguel Mora, told 100% Noticias that the judge Nadia Camila Tardencilla, of the Second Criminal District Court of Managua, interrupted the count for the duration of the trial, alleging “excess workload.”

“The judge is saying that her workload and the possibility that other cases are assigned to her is an element of force majeure, that is why she indefinitely interrupted the count. In other words, (the political prisoner) can be locked up for three years and that period will not be taken into account,” explained Gonzalez.

A specialist in legal matters, who requested that his name be omitted, explained that “in theory” the date of the trials is scheduled from the initial hearing stage. Once the cases are assigned to a trial court, “the judge must do two things: confirm the date set by the hearing judge or set a new date;” however, “they suspended the time limits for the trial.”

“This means that the time periods don’t advance, and the trial date is put off without the expiration of the maximum duration of the process, which could last up to 12 months counting from the time of the first hearing,” stressed the expert.

“For political prisoners it is one more breach, since such a situation violates constitutional and universal principles of due process, such as procedural speed, to have a resolution in the shortest possible time,” he commented.

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This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial

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