The human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger is challenging the President of Nicaragua to prove that a Catholic Bishop imprisoned for 26 years in the country is alive.
In a video posted on Twitter Ms Jagger pleaded with President Daniel Ortega to be allowed to visit the prison where Bishop Rolando Alvarez is being held.
She said : “In the name of Jesus Christ let me see Bishop Alvarez and let him free. His only crime is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Alvarez who is a critic of the Ortega regime was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison in February after he refused to be expelled to the United States as part of a prisoner release. The prisoners were being deported to the US for opposing the Sandinista President and ‘being traitors to the fatherland.’
Bishop Alvarez was convicted of treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news, among other charges.
He’d been under house arrest since August, after police forced him out of a church along with four other priests and two seminarians after they had barricaded themselves into the building.
It was the latest in a clampdown on the church in Nicaragua by the Ortega regime. Catholic nuns and missionaries have been expelled and several Catholic radio and television stations closed down.
Ortega has accused Catholic leaders of attempting to overthrow him when some served as mediators with protest groups after protests that killed about 300 people in 2018.
In the statement to Ortega and his wife, the Vice President Rosario Murillo, Ms Jagger said she is “deeply concerned for Bishop Alvarez. No one knows his whereabouts. His family have been trying to find out where he is, asking to be allowed to bring him medicine, food & water, I'm asking Ortega & Murillo to provide "proof of life. We want to know that the bishop is alive.”
Pleading with Ortega to free Bishop Alvarez, Ms Jagger, who is President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, said it would be “a wonderful action in this Easter season.”
Nicaragua has been mired in a political and social crisis since April 2018, and the situation has worsened after Ortega was re-elected for a fifth term, his fourth consecutive term as president.