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Nicaragua news director accused of terror after station raid

December 22, 2018

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The director of a TV station critical of President Daniel Ortega was accused Saturday of inciting terrorism after authorities raided and shut down the station’s offices in their latest salvo against independent media and nongovernmental organizations.

Miguel Mora’s wife, Veronica Chavez, who is also a journalist, accused police at a news conference of carrying out a “kidnapping” of her husband “on orders of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and (first lady and Vice President) Rosario Murillo.”

Mora appeared in court in the morning wearing a blue prisoner’s uniform and was formally accused of “provocation, proposition and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts,” according to a court document.

The document alleged that Mora, through the 100% Noticias channel, incited hate with messages and “false news” that purportedly provoked people to violent acts in protests this year that have demanded Ortega’s exit from office.

Mora was arrested in a police raid Friday night in which agents also took control equipment from the station. The channel went off the air, and the national broadcast regulator issued a statement banning cable operators from carrying its signal.

“They had everything planned,” Chavez said. “They waited until Miguel ended his IV Poder program and began to surround the station. Then they entered in force as if they were after a dangerous criminal, they pointed guns at us and they took him away.”

Chavez said she and four others were also arrested, and she was the only one to be freed three hours later. The 100% Noticias station had previously been forced off the air for over 10 days in April before being allowed to resume broadcasting.

At least 325 people have been killed in the protests, and the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights says some 565 people have been jailed. Thousands more have fled the country in self-imposed exile.

Ortega, 73, alleges that the protests were part of a coup plan to topple him. Opponents accuse him of increasing authoritarianism; of ordering the deadly protest crackdown by police and armed, pro-Ortega civilian groups, and of harshly persecuting government opponents.

While the demonstrations dissipated following the tough response, recent days have been tense for the Central American nation as the government targeted opposition voices despite criticism from abroad.

On Dec. 14 police seized the offices of four NGOs — including the Center for Human Rights — and the newspaper Confidencial.

Then on Wednesday, Ortega’s government expelled two groups of experts sponsored by the Organization of American States who were investigating and monitoring alleged human rights abuses by security forces during the protests.

On Friday in Washington, those experts urged the international community to act on Nicaragua.

“The other nations of the planet can intervene and judge,” Argentine expert Pablo Parenti said, citing what he called “crimes against humanity for murder, incarceration and persecution.”

Also Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill cutting off resources to Ortega’s government and putting sanctions against countries that assist Nicaragua.

Condemnation of the move against 100% Noticias came from abroad on Saturday, including from freedom of expression officials at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged Nicaraguan authorities to release the arrested journalists and “end their repressive campaign against the independent media.”

And the Inter American Press Association called the Ortega government’s actions “a serious violation against the freedoms of expression and the press.”

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