Nicaragua has sentenced seven more opposition figures to lengthy prison terms on charges of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”.
Those sentenced on Thursday were among the dozens arrested in the lead-up to last year’s election, which saw President Daniel Ortega win a second consecutive term in polls dismissed as illegitimate by international observers.
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They included Lesther Aleman, a student leader who famously stood up to President Daniel Ortega in 2018. He was handed a term of 13 years.
Also sentenced was Dora Maria Tellez, a former Sandinista rebel who had led an assault on the National Palace in 1978 during the Somoza family dictatorship and held congress members hostage in exchange for the release of rebel prisoners. Tellez, who broke from Ortega’s party in 1995 and became head of an opposition group, was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Rights groups have dismissed the legal proceedings, held in the infamous Chipote prison, as a sham.
Aleman’s mother, Lesbia Alfaro, decried her son’s trial as “nonsense, a lie, a circus”.
“He is not a terrorist,” she said.
Among the opposition figures jailed last summer were seven potential challengers to Ortega for the presidency. On Wednesday, former presidential hopeful and journalist Miguel Mora was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down protests in 2018.
Ortega has said the protests were actually an attempted coup with foreign backing. Many of those on trial have been accused to working with foreign powers for his overthrow or encouraging foreign nations to apply sanctions on members of his family and government.
Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 after leading a rebel army that overthrew US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza.
He returned to power in 2007 and has won re-election three times as critics say he gradually consolidated power and stifled dissent.
The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions against Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, over election-related and human rights abuses under Ortega.