10:32, June 11 35 0 theguardian.com

2019-06-11 10:32:04
Nicaragua releases dozens of political prisoners under new amnesty law

Nicaragua has released dozens of political prisoners under a new law that frees people arrested amid a year of anti-government protests while also protecting police and others who violently clamped down on the demonstrations.

Fifty prisoners jailed for their role in anti-government protests were released on Monday, while on Tuesday two journalists who were arrested in December were set free.

Miguel Mora was the director and Lucía Pineda Ubau the spokeswoman for the 100% Noticias television channel that was raided and shut down by the government in December.

Street protests erupted in April 2018 when the president, Daniel Ortega, tried to cut welfare benefits, and spiraled into a broader protest movement against his rule.

The releases came two days after lawmakers passed an amnesty bill for crimes related to the protests. The government says the amnesty seeks the “reconciliation of society” and that further releases will come.

Opposition leaders – and the UN’s top human rights official – say the measure would forgive killings and other abuses by police and pro-government civilian militias during a crackdown on demonstrators in which at least 325 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 wounded.

The law extends protections to “people who have not been investigated, who find themselves under investigation” or in criminal processes and “complying with their sentences”, according to the text. It also bans freed political prisoners from launching further anti-government protests.

One of those freed, Hansell Vásquez, said he felt “happy to have escaped that hell” but also “sad and worried because the country is more locked up than when we became prisoners”.

More than 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile because of political strife over the past 14 months.

Nearly 200 detainees whom the opposition describes as political prisoners remain behind bars, while 520 others have been freed, according to a rights group that supports those arrested during the protests.

Tamara Zamora, the mother of Nicaraguan-Belgian student Amaya Coppens, said her daughter is now alone in her cell after another student was freed Monday.

“Amaya has been in prison nine months as of today,” Zamora said. “This is torture. They are killing us slowly.”