The UK government is urging the "immediate and unconditional release" of all political and religious leaders detained in Nicaragua.
The Freedom of Religion or Belief situation in the country has deteriorated in recent years, leading to the conviction of several priests for criticising the government.
Just a month ago, two priests were arrested for publicly praying for the release of Bishop Rolando Alvarez, a senior cleric who had received a 26-year prison sentence for crimes against the state and who has now been expelled to Rome.
The release of Bishop Rolando, along with another 19 clergymen to the Vatican, marked a second round of expatriating political prisoners. In 2023, 200 individuals were sent to the US, including some of the priests arrested with Bishop Rolando in 2021.
In a written question to the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Ruth Jones MP asked if the government is taking any steps to “help promote the freedom of religion or belief in Nicaragua”.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary, David Rutley, replied: “We share widespread international concern about the suppression of human rights in Nicaragua, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.
“In June 2023, in her capacity as Chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Fiona Bruce MP, issued an international statement condemning the continued persecution of the Catholic Church by the Nicaraguan Government. In my tweet on 16 January, I also condemned the detention of Catholic priests by the Nicaraguan Government. We continue to work with international partners to put pressure on the Ortega regime to re-establish democratic and other essential freedoms in Nicaragua.”
The Central American country entered Open Doors' watch list of nations where Christians face the most discrimination for their faith at number 50 last year and has climbed to number 30 in this year's list.
The report warned that the Church is being directly targeted and harassed, mainly because its leaders and prominent Christians have spoken out in favor of respecting the rule of law, especially during and after elections.