A petition has been filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a Nicaraguan priest who has been in jail for over a year accused of “undermining national integrity” and the “propagation of false news through information and communication technologies”.
Filed by religious freedom charity ADF International, the petition wants to highlight the bishop’s case as no effective avenues for legal recourse are available in Nicaragua.
Bishop Álvarez's ordeal began with his suspension from celebrating Mass and confinement to his residence in August last year. Later, he was arrested without explanation and thrown into prison.
He was then charged and convicted in a trial with a sentence that included 26 years behind bars and no contact with family or legal representation.
There are concerns that he's being held in solitary confinement.
“Those concerned with basic human rights should be outraged by the crisis endured by people of faith in Nicaragua,” Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for Latin America for ADF International, said.
She added: “For simply fulfilling his duties as a bishop and preaching the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church, Bishop Álvarez has been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
“This is a clear violation of not only his human right to freedom of expression but also to profess his faith and share his beliefs as a pastor. ADF International is honoured to bring this crucial case to the Commission, and we look forward to securing justice for Bishop Álvarez, and hopefully, an end to religious persecution in Nicaragua. No one should be persecuted or imprisoned for sharing their faith”.
Pope Francis has previously voiced his concerns about Bishop Álvarez‘s sentence and has called for all parties involved to engage in dialogue.