FILE - Opposition legislator Victor Hugo Tinoco, of the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) gestures before the National Assembly votes to amend the Nicaraguan Constitution to include eliminating presidential term limits in Managua, Nicaragua, Jan. 28, 2014. Nicaraguan judges on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, have sentenced Tinoco to 13 years in prison for “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”  (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

Nicaragua sentences former official to 13 years in prison

Nicaragua sentences former official to 13 years in prison

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaraguan judges on Monday sentenced a former high-level Sandinista official to 13 years in prison for “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”

Victor Hugo Tinoco is one of dozens of opposition leaders arrested by President Daniel Ortega last year to clear the way for his re-election virtually unopposed.

Tinoco was deputy foreign affairs minister during the first Sandinista government in 1979 but later split with Ortega. Tinoco also served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations and was the lead negotiator in peace talks with the U.S.-backed Contras.

The nongovernmental Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said Tinoco, 69, was ordered to serve 13 years in prison, though some of the older victims of the crackdown have been given a form of house arrest.

Authorities ordered home detention for three opposition figures suffering from health problems, one week after another died following months of incarceration.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, 77, former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister José Pallais, 68, and former ambassador to the United States Arturo Cruz Sequeira, 68, were ordered to home confinement.

All three were accused of conspiring to destabilize the country, a charge applied to dozens of opposition figures.

Hugo Torres, a former Sandinista guerrilla leader who once led a raid that helped free then rebel Ortega from prison, died one week ago while awaiting trial. He was 73.

The government was internationally condemned for Torres’ death.

The string of recent trials of opposition figures has been carried out in the infamous Chipote prison. The defendants have only been permitted to have their lawyers present.

Among the opposition leaders jailed last summer were seven potential challengers to Ortega for the presidency. With them all in custody, he cruised to winning a fourth consecutive presidential term in November elections widely criticized by the international community.

Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down anti-government protests in 2018. Ortega says the protests were actually an attempted coup with foreign backing, and many of those on trial have been accused of working with foreign powers for his overthrow or encouraging foreign nations to apply sanctions on members of his family and government.

The Associated Press