Prosecution Accused of Fabricating Witnesses for Trial of Nicaraguan Bishop

An exiled priest and a human-rights defender have charged that the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is manipulating witnesses for the trial that it is preparing against Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez
Bishop Rolando Álvarez (photo: Diocese of Matagalpa / via CNA)

An exiled priest Father Erick Díaz, and a human-rights defender, attorney Yader Morazán, have charged that the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is manipulating and “fabricating” witnesses for the trial that it is preparing against Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa.

Father Díaz, who lives in exile in the United States after leaving his country in September 2022, said on Facebook that the regime “has fabricated” a list of witnesses “to testify against Bishop Rolando.” 

The prelate has been a critic of the abuses of the Ortega dictatorship. Beginning Aug. 4, 2022, the Nicaraguan police surrounded the chancery when he and a group of priests, seminarians and a layman were inside and forcibly confined them for two weeks, until around 3am on Aug. 19, when they broke into the building and hauled everyone away.

All were taken to the capital of Managua, where the bishop is being held under house arrest, and the others are incarcerated in “El Chipote” prison, notorious for torturing political prisoners.

At a Jan. 10 hearing, amid complaints of irregularities in the proceedings, the court hearing his case determined that Bishop Álvarez, accused of “conspiracy” and spreading “fake news” against the regime, will be brought to trial. 

The list of witnesses against Bishop Álvarez was recently published by the justice system and released on social media. Father Díaz pointed out in a Jan. 18 Facebook post that there are several people “who didn’t know they were on that list and realized just today that their names have been used and put there.”

“You already know what comes next. They will be issued a summons and threatened so they’ll say what [the prosecution] has prepared or they’ll tell them what they should say,” the priest noted. 

“There are some who will go happily to vent their hatred and tell lies against the bishop. There are others who put their faith first and are not capable of bearing false witness,” he said.

For the priest, “this is also a crime committed by the system involving people who know nothing and who are not willing to tell lies. They, too, are victims.”

Father Díaz affirmed that only God knows “each person’s heart.”

“Sooner than later everything comes to light,” he said, pointing out that eventually it will be known “who acted willingly and out of faith and adherence to his Christian, ethical and moral principles and who ignored his conscience and went to lie against an innocent person.”

“Besides being a sin, it’s a crime punishable by law,” he specified.

The priest shared a screenshot of a post by one of the alleged witnesses summoned to testify by the dictatorship.

The screenshot is a message from Nieves Hernández, a former worker at Radio Hermano of the Diocese of Matagalpa.

“I have never sold out nor will I betray my Church or our priests, and long live Bishop Rolando,” the post reads.

“Blessings, we continue there with our heads held high even if they involve me in something that I have nothing to do with, my conscience always clear, and I continue to support our priests; and long live Christ the King; long live our bishop and priests,” Hernández added.

According to local media, another of the “witnesses” on the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s list, Juan Francisco Blandón, has apparently left the country to avoid participating in the trial against Bishop Álvarez.

Nicaraguan lawyer Yader Morazán, a human-rights defender exiled in the United States, charged on Twitter that other supposed “witnesses” who will testify against the Catholic bishop have ties to the dictatorship and seek to obtain the favor of the Ortega regime.

Among them, Morazán points to Emiliano Antonio Pérez Castro, noting that “after April he was appointed delegate of the Matagalpa Ministry of Transportation. His sister-in-law is Judge Sheyla Patricia Delgado Medrano.”

“He has wanted to enter the state service for years,” Morazán said.

Another of the witnesses is Josefa Azucena Jirón López, whom the lawyer identified as “secretary of the Matagalpa Ministry of Education.”

He also singled out Elba Marina Rayo, who “works at Radio Insurrección that operates within the FSLN Department,” the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.

It was from that department, Morazán said, “that the repression of April 2018 was directed” against the massive demonstrations that demanded the departure of Ortega, who has been continuously in power since Jan. 10, 2007.

“Before, she embraced Bishop Álvarez, and now she will testify against him,” Morazán criticized.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.