2 more Nicaragua opposition figures convicted in trials
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaraguan judges on Friday convicted a former high-level Sandinista official and a student leader accused of conspiring to de-stabilize the government of President Daniel Ortega, as a series of perfunctory trials keep the president’s opponents behind bars.
The nongovernmental Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said Victor Hugo Tinoco, who was deputy foreign affairs minister during the first Sandinista government in 1979 but later split with Ortega, was convicted of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”
In a separate trial, student leader Max Jerez was convicted of the same charge. A day earlier, student leader Lesther Aleman was sentenced to 13 years in prison on the same charge.
Tinoco was arrested last year along with five other leaders of the Sandinista Renovation Movement, which split from Ortega in 1994 and is now known as the Democratic Renovation Union. Another of the party’s leaders, Dora María Téllez, a former Sandinista commander who led an assault on the National Palace in 1978, was sentenced to 13 years in prison Thursday.
Tinoco also served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations and the lead negotiator in peace talks with the U.S.-backed Contras.
The string of recent trials of opposition figures has been carried out in the infamous Chipote prison. The defendants have only been permitted to have their lawyers present.
Among the opposition leaders jailed last summer were seven potential challengers to Ortega for the presidency. With them all in custody, he cruised to winning a fourth consecutive presidential term in November elections widely criticized by the international community.
Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down anti-government protests in 2018. Ortega says the protests were actually an attempted coup with foreign backing, and many of those on trial have been accused of working with foreign powers for his overthrow or encouraging foreign nations to apply sanctions on members of his family and government.