A Nicaraguan court on Friday sentenced Catholic bishop Rolando Alvarez to 26 years in jail, a day after he refused to board a US-bound plane carrying 222 political prisoners into exile. A sentence read by an appeals court judge declared Alvarez, bishop of Matagalpa, to be “a traitor to the fatherland” and said he would not step out of jail until 2049. The court also stripped the bishop of his Nicaraguan citizenship and fined him $1,600.
Alvarez, who is Nicaraguan-born but educated in Spain and the Vatican, declined Thursday to board a charter plane carrying 222 political prisoners to exile in the United States.
President Daniel Ortega spoke of the case on national television later in the day, saying that Alvarez “starts saying he’s not leaving” until he talks with fellow bishops. Ortega called the posture of the bishop “absurd” and said he would return to jail for “terrorism.”
Police arrested Alvarez in August 2022 and courts later charged him with “conspiracy” and spreading “fake news.” Alvarez had been an outspoken critic of what he called restrictions on religious freedom under the Ortega government. A chief magistrate at the appeals court, Octavio Rothschuh, said Alvarez, who is 56, should “complete his sentence on April 13, 2049.”
Among those released and expelled from the country are former presidential candidates, journalists, former Sandinista guerrilla commanders, former ministers, former diplomats and former leaders of industry and commerce. They were detained as part of a wave of repression that followed 2018 anti-government protests demanding that Ortega, who has ruled since 2007, cede power.
About a dozen priests, deacons, seminary students or other church functionaries were among the 222 who left Nicaragua voluntarily for exile in the United States.