Nicaragua: Dictatorship Sentences Priest Critical Of Regime To 10 Years In Prison
The dictatorship in Nicaragua, led by President Daniel Ortega, sentenced Father Óscar Danilo Benavidez Dávila to 10 years in prison for the alleged crimes of “conspiracy” and “spreading fake news” to the detriment of the regime.
The news site Despacho 505 obtained access to the closed-doors verdict and reported Feb. 4 that the Tenth Criminal Trial District Court of Managua, presided by Judge Nancy Aguirre, had sentenced the priest on Jan. 24.
According to the ruling, after a trial riddled with irregularities, the priest was given five years in prison for the crime of “spreading fake news” and another five for “undermining national security and sovereignty.”
In addition, the Catholic priest was fined 49,917 córdobas, about $1,350.
Benavidez, 50, known for being a critic of the dictatorship, has been in custody since Aug. 14, 2022, when he was arrested after celebrating a Mass in the Conception of Mary chapel in the Diocese of Siuna.
He was found guilty Jan. 16 and the state prosecution requested a sentence of eight years in prison. However, the court sentenced him to 10 years.
Despacho 505 noted that Benavidez is the first priest sentenced for “conspiracy and cybercrimes, crimes invented by the regime of Daniel Ortega and [his wife, Vice President] Rosario Murillo to imprison opponents.”
According to the priest’s defense, during the trial the alleged “crime” he committed was expressing his opinion in a social media post.
The Nicaraguan news outlet Mosaico reported Jan. 16 that the only trial hearing lasted fewer than eight hours.
In total there are nine Nicaraguan clergy that the dictatorship has accused of the crime of “conspiracy,” including Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was arrested along with other priests around 3 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2022.
A recent report from the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, endorsed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), indicated that the number of political prisoners in Nicaragua has risen to 245 as of January 2023.