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Nicaragua deports 222 political prisoners to U.S.; group includes Catholic priests, students, opponents of regime

Activists hold up signs with the names of some of the more than 200 political prisoners released from Nicaragua, as they await their arrival at Dulles International Airport in Virginia Feb. 9, 2023. (OSV News photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) — Nicaragua has released more than 200 political prisoners, including Catholic priests, students, and opponents of the regime, who were taken from detention in deplorable conditions and sent to the United States.

Media in the Central American countries reported 222 political prisoners boarded a flight Feb. 9 to the United States, where they would be granted refuge.

Independent Nicaraguan news organization Confidencial reported that six churchmen and a diocesan communicator, sentenced to 10 years in prison on conspiracy charges by a Nicaraguan court on Feb. 6 were on the flight to the United States. The list includes Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios; Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega; seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melkin Centeno; and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas — all from the Diocese of Matagalpa. Another priest, Father Óscar Danilo Benavidez, pastor in the community of Mulukuku, who was arrested Aug. 14 and sentenced Feb. 5 on similar charges of conspiracy and spreading false information, also was reported to be on the flight.

The status of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa is unknown. The bishop, an unrelenting critic of the Ortega regime, has been held under house arrest since August 2021. The bishop has previously refused to flee the country, in spite of increasing persecution.

For the full OSV News story, see your local Catholic news source.

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