(ZENIT News / Managua-Rome, 26.08.2022).- On Friday, August 19, after two days of captivity inside the Episcopal House, the Bishop of Managua, Nicaragua, was arrested at dawn by the National Police and taken to the country’s capital, where he remains under arrest. To know Monsignor Rolando Álvarez’s legal situation better, we interviewed his lawyer Yader Morazán.
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Question: What is Monsignor Rolando Álvarez’s legal situation at this moment? Of what is he accused?
Answer: At present Monsignor Rolando Álvarez finds himself in a condition of abduction in the home of family members. The police admitted this in a press release in which they acknowledged that they removed him from his natural judge, to take him by force to the city of Managua, where they have all the infrastructure and logistics to do to persecuted politicians whatever they want.
It’s important to be clear that our legislation doesn’t give faculties to the police to impose cautionary measures, except for police retention, which is done only for acts of investigation, generally in the crime scene and which doesn’t last more than three hours. The detention in police delegations and for infraganti delito [red-handed crime] or a judge’s order, but a process must be initiated within 48 hours after a detention.
In this connection, house arrest is the exclusive power of the Judicial Power and is dictated in a hearing within a process, in front of a judge, and in the presence of the accused, without affecting third parties (given that other family members in the same dwelling are deprived of communicating with the outside). In other words, this time they did not bother to apply the “procedures” that Ortega invented to keep an opponent up to 90 days in “detention,” without formalizing charges against him, nor did they oblige judges to work outside scheduled hours and labour centers, such as in Chipote. This time they kidnapped in the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, limiting for more than 15 days the ability to bring food and medicine to Fathers Rolando Álvarez, Ramiro Tijerino, Oscar Escoto, Sadiel Eugarrios, José Luis Díaz, Deacon Raul Herrera, and to the seminarians and others. In this particular, the law doesn’t prohibit a policeman from doing so and it says, textually, in this regard:
Article 163 of the Criminal Code. Simple abduction
Whoever removes, retains or hides a person against his will, will incur a prison [sentence] of three to six years and of one hundred to three hundred days of a fine.
If the author of this crime frees the kidnapped within the first 48 hours of his privation of freedom, he will be given a prison sentence of one to three years.
Article 165 of the Criminal Code. Aggravating circumstances
The punishment pointed out for extortionate abduction will be ten to twelve years in prison, if one of the following circumstances applies:
b)The privation of freedom is prolonged for more than ten days;
c) The crime was committed by a public authority, functionary or employee taking advantage of the exercise of his office;
Question: in every “State of Law” it’s not enough to accuse people but proof must be provided. What proofs exist to carry forward a trial and why is Monsignor Álvarez detained de facto given that the trial hasn’t begun?
Answer: For the same reasons I explained earlier, and characterized by the excess of arbitrariness, so that the regime that lost control of the streets at the start of the protests in April 2018, can show itself strong and perverse. That is, they don’t even try to give the appearance of legality to their acts, despite having absolute control of the whole State apparatus.
Hence we see the imposition of retentions to liberty without any legal process and under forms, which still don’t exist in the law for processes, and under conditions that are not specifically in the law. That is, in our legislation, house arrest only deprives one of ambulatory freedom, but it doesn’t deprive one of other recourses, such as being able to use communication devices, television, the Internet, etc. and they have extended this to other members of the family and house staff, not involved in the persecution of clergymen.
Question: In the recent history of Nicaragua, there is a history of detained people that started first in the political realm and then moved to the social realm. In so far as is known, all political opponents are in prison. In your condition of citizen, not as lawyer, what are clergymen doing to be persecuted in this way? Why does the Government see a threat in the Catholic Church?
Answer: All areas of expression of freedom and supervised social manifestations, mobilizations, gatherings, etc. have been closing, which extends from the closing of 1,500 NGO’s, channels and radios, including 11 radio broadcasting stations and four Catholic channels. The Church is the only place of expression remaining. In Nicaragua they have criminalized listening to a protest song, the flying of a flag that symbolizes freedom and the homeland.
Question: According to a police press release –and you have also mentioned this– Monsignor Rolando Álvarez is in a sort of house arrest in the country’s capital, but the other priests, seminarians and the layman who were with him were taken to prison. Why is the treatment different?
Answer: The regime is characterized for being class-based and giving procedural treatment according to the political weight, convocation or social tract of the person in question. Hence we see parish priest Oscar Dávila, who is from a small village, being detained by unidentified individuals and taken immediately. On the other hand, “greater consideration” was given to the priests Ramiro Tijerino, Oscar Escoto, Sadiel Eugarrios, José Luis Díaz, Deacon Raúl Herrera and the seminarians who were kept captive for 18 days until placed at the order of a judge, where they were taken hooded to a Court of Justice to carry out a clandestine hearing and without a lawyer trusted by the defendants. However, no legal process has begun. For Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, being held in a legal limbo constitutes the crime of Abduction.
Question: Let’s go back for a moment to the two weeks before they took Monsignor Álvarez to Managua. He was in a sort of house arrest for 14 days. Is that legal? Can the police keep a person like that?
Answer: That doesn’t exist in law, and less so in the conditions imposed, for reasons I already explained.
Although the conditions have now changed, in an article I wrote on August 24, I said:
“At dawn today, the 48 hours expired that the law establishes (Article 33.2, 2.2 Political Constitution/Cn) so that the seven persons who were kidnapped (Article 163 and 165 clauses B and C of the CP) for more than 15 days must be put to the order of a judge. I am referring to Fathers Rolando Álvarez, Ramiro Tijerino, José Díaz; cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, Deacon Raúl Vega and seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melquin Sequeira who are currently in a legal limbo in El Chipote, after having been arrested and raided without a judicial order. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa has been taken by the Police, and a policeman opens the door when someone comes in or out. Moreover, they have taken many documents and computers, despite the non-existence of a legal process that justifies such an intervention.”
In this connection, our legislation only permits raids with a Judge’s order between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm, not as the “Police” said in its Press Release, carried out at any time with the permission of the dweller or owner and in extremely serious and urgent cases (*Article 217CPP). In other words, to lose patience as they argued, isn’t a legal reason, even less so if it’s outside the pre-established exceptions by the Magna Carta, as are: assistance, fire, flood, infraganti delito, persecution or rescue of a kidnapped person (Article 26.45Cn).
Moreover, the Police is not empowered to impose “house arrest or protection,” because the dictation of cautionary measures is the exclusive faculty of the Judicial Power, within a process or hearing, on concrete events formulated formally, before a suspect accompanied by his defense, and under the parameters of Cautionary Measures statements that the law authorizes (Article 166CPP), which means that the Judge cannot dictate a cautionary measure that is not pre-established, or take an individual to another circumscription outside of where the crime was allegedly committed (Article 34.2CN) and even less so transcend family members that live with the suspect or accused in the same dwelling (Article 37Cn), as they have been doing. Without forgetting that the “Police” has already caried out acts constituting crimes, among others, the “Disturbance of religious and ceremonial acts” (Article 190CP) and “Abduction” (Article 163 and 165 clause “B” and “C” of the CP), which added up could spell a 12-year prison sentence.
In this case, it’s clear that the Police apart from being confessed, interfere in other people’s functions, attribute to themselves what doesn’t correspond to them, and supplant institutions, and also incriminate themselves by admitting having carried out acts that constitute crimes and that limit citizens’ rights systematically.
In conclusion, this time they didn’t even collude to apply the laws to the measure of Ortega and his gang, invented recently to keep captive up to 90 days any opponent without formalizing charges , nor did they oblige judges to work outside labour hours and centers, as they are accustomed to do. Given that there are already clues of crimes in between, they have had more than 17 days to carry out any investigation that leads them to a real legal process, instead of continuing to impose de facto captivity on them, characterized by not even been able to have food or medicines passed to them and now being detained incommunicado.
If what they seek is their “Deportation or Forced Transfer,” we must be clear that that is a crime against humanity, which consists in expelling or carrying out coercive acts in the area in which one is legitimately present, without reasons authorized by International Law (Article 7.1 and 2 Statutes of Rome).
Question: From your point of view, is there a possibility that the trial to which Monsignor Álvarez will be eventually subjected have the guarantee of neutrality? We know that not only the Ortega-Murillo matrimony controls the country, but that there are more family members involved in key posts (for example, the President’s father-in-law might well be the Chief of Police, unless we are mistaken). Do you envision more clergymen in prisons in the near future?
Answer: Without a doubt; they have absolute control of the State and justice operators have played a principal role as a repressive arm in the creation of crimes to subject the population, including the Church. We have recently seen that the attacks on the Church are carried out systematically, and go from limiting the introduction in the Customs of wine used in Masses, to the closing of means for spreading the Word of God, “processes” that are very televised, and kidnappings without access to food and medicine. That is, in Nicaragua the freedom to worship is limited and crimes against humanity continue to be committed, in the way of torture, incarceration or serious privation of physical freedom, persecution and deportation or forced transfer (Article 7.1, clauses d, e, f and h Statutes of Rome).
Question: Finally, for you, personally, is it dangerous to defend someone that the Government wants in prison? Do you fear for your own safety? Is there a personal motivation of faith that helps you in all this?
Answer: It’s very dangerous, even if one is outside, that’s why I had to exile myself after working with the Judicial Power for over eight years, and leave, fleeing as if having committed an offense, as a six-year-old child in arms who has not seen his mother, and the members of my family who stayed in Nicaragua have been persecuted to the extent of being jailed and fabricating crimes against my father, Alfonso Morazán and issuing an arrest warrant for a sister.