NICARAGUA: Bishop Alvarez Lagos among 19 Catholic prisoners released and expelled from the country
CSW (15.01.2024) – Roman Catholic Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos was expelled from Nicaragua on 14 January, almost a year after he was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison on unfounded charges of conspiracy against the state.
According to a statement from the Nicaraguan government, Bishop Álvarez Lagos was one of 19 Roman Catholic political prisoners who were expelled to the Vatican. Also among the group was Bishop Isidoro del Carmen Mora Ortega, who was arrested on 20 December 2023 after he told his congregation that Nicaragua’s bishops were ‘united in prayer’ for Bishop Álvarez Lagos.
In its statement on 14 January the government thanked Pope Francis and other members of the Roman Catholic Church for ‘the very respectful and discreet coordination carried out to make possible the trip to the Vatican’ for the group, which also included 15 priests and two seminarians.
Bishop Álvarez Lagos – a prominent critic of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega – was placed under house arrest on 19 August 2022. On 10 February 2023, he was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison in a summary trial one day after the Nicaraguan government released 222 political prisoners into exile in the United States. The bishop was stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality and his civil rights for life, and was also not among a group of 12 other political prisoners – all Roman Catholic priests – who were released into exile in Rome in October 2023.
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: ‘While CSW welcomes the news that these religious leaders are now free, this should not be interpreted as a gesture of good will on the part of the government. Bishop Álvarez Lagos, Bishop Mora Ortega and the 17 others have been forced to leave their country because the government compels those who are critical of the regime to choose between prison or exile. We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua, for the restoration of citizenship for Bishop Álvarez Lagos and all others who have been stripped of their nationality, and for the international community to hold President Ortega to account for the campaign to eliminate independent voices in the country.’
Note to Editors:
- The full list of those released is as follows:
- Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos
- Bishop Isidoro del Carmen Mora Ortega
- Oscar José Escoto Salgado
- Jader Danilo Guido Acosta
- Pablo Antonio Villafranca Martínez
- Carlos José Avilés Cantón
- Héctor del Carmen Treminio Vega
- Marcos Francisco Diaz Prado
- Fernando Isaías Calero Rodríguez
- Silvio José Fonseca Martínez
- Mikel Salvador Monterrey Arias
- Raúl Antonio Zamora Guerra
- Miguel Agustín Mantica Cuadra
- Jhader Antonio Hernández Urbina
- Gerardo José Rodríguez Pérez
- Ismael Reineiro Serrano Gudiel
- José Gustavo Sandino Ochoa
- Tonny Daniel Palacio Sequeira
- Alester de Jesús Sáenz Centeno
Photo: Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos (CSW)
Further reading about FORB in Nicaragua on HRWF website