Nicaraguan detainees’ families describe abuse after their first visit.
Isolation, daily interrogations, threats, and hunger are among the concerns of family of dozens of opposition activists detained in Nicaragua under conditions that have been condemned by human rights groups.
Authorities this week allowed the first visits to El Chipote prison, nearly three months after the first arrests of opponents of President Daniel Ortega in a crackdown ahead of the November 7 elections.
In their 20-30 minute discussions, family members learned little that was comforting.
Ana Maria Chamorro, the sister of would-be presidential candidate Juan Sebastian Chamorro, said her brother had dropped more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and seemed pale and emaciated to AFP.
After her brief visit to the prison, she observed, “The lack of information about what is going on outside is the most painful (for him).”
She went on to say, “They interview him daily – 87 days of interrogation and psychological torment.” “They feed him lies, such as that his wife will be imprisoned and that his property will be confiscated.”
Prison officials keep a light on in her brother’s cell 24 hours a day, seven days a week to confuse him, she added.
Victor Tinoco’s daughter, Cristian Tinoco, says her father was kept in isolation for two and a half months in a tiny cell, sleeping on a concrete bed with a thin mat as a mattress and no blanket to keep warm.
“There is a hole in the floor for his ablutions,” Cristian, the eldest of four children who is battling cancer, explained.
It was tough for her to see her 69-year-old father, who was “thin, pale, with white hair, a long beard, and slow motions,” she told AFP.
For collecting up opposition figures, including seven potential presidential contenders, Ortega’s government has been accused of political persecution.
Ortega, 75, will run for re-election in November for the fourth time.
Since June 2, the president, who has been in office since 2007, has accused the 36 persons arrested in a succession of house and night-time raids of attempting to topple him with US support.
The vast majority are incarcerated awaiting trial, with four being placed under home arrest.
The inmates are accused of endangering Nicaragua’s sovereignty by “applauding” sanctions and “inciting foreign involvement,” among other things.
According to family members, the detainees are being held without appropriate food or medical attention.
Tamara Davila, a feminist activist, is being kept “in a cage without bars.”
“She is in a confined cell and cannot see anyone,” a family member who did not want to be identified said.
Davila “did not talk to anyone” from her arrest on June 12 through last week’s visit. She. Brief News from Washington Newsday.