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Diocesis Matagalpa
Church News

Four priests and seminarians among group found guilty of 'fake news' in Nicaragua Catholic crackdown

by Sophie Drew

A Nicaraguan judge has found seven men – including four priests – guilty of “damaging national integrity and propagating fake news”.

The verdict comes after the men were forcibly detailed alongside Bishop Rolando Alvarez Lagos for more than two weeks.

The group includes four priests, two seminarians and a church cameraman.

Nicaraguan security forces stormed the Diocese of Matagalpa curia and detained the men on 19th August 2022.

Earlier this month, Bishop Alvarez Lagos was put on trial for conspiracy and spreading of false information via his work at a Nicaraguan Catholic radio station.

He remains under house arrest, Christian Solidarity Worldwide has confirmed.

The detainments come as Roman Catholic leaders find themselves increasingly punished for issuing support to protestors fighting against the government.

It’s an issue that has warranted public attention far beyond the borders of the country. Last year, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro issued a public offer of refuge for Catholic priests in Nicaragua.

The offer followed similar sentiments from Pope Francis, who said the situation gave him “worry and pain” in a call for prayer.

"I would like to express my conviction and my wish that, through an open and sincere dialogue, the foundations for a respectful and peaceful coexistence can be found," Francis said in August 2022.

Faith-based persecution organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has been closely monitoring the escalating situation in the South American country.

CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: “The Ortega-Murillo government’s decision to pursue trumped up charges leading to the convictions of religious leaders like Father Benavides Davila and the priests and lay leaders from Matagalpa and the harsh sentences that have been recommended and imposed represent a significant escalation of its crackdown on all independent voices and its attack on freedom of religion or belief in Nicaragua.

“We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including religious leaders. We urge leaders around the world, and especially those in Latin America, to make it clear to the Nicaraguan government that this is unacceptable.”

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