Former Belgian-Nicaraguan political prisoner calls for probe into Ortega government

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua’s best known former political prisoner, Amaya Coppens, is calling for international organizations to investigate alleged abuses by the government of President Daniel Ortega.

Amaya Coppens, a Belgian-Nicaraguan opposition activist, arrives at a court for a hearing in Managua, Nicaragua January 30, 2020. Picture taken January 30, 2020. RUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Coppens, 25, a Belgian-Nicaraguan dual national, was a key figure in the anti-government street protests that swept across Nicaragua in April 2018 before being quelled by police and paramilitary forces. About 325 people died in the unrest.

Coppens spent seven months in prison after police raided a hideout used by protesters and activists in September 2018. She alleges she was punched and psychologically tortured in prison, while others were physically tortured.

Coppens became Nicaragua’s most high profile street protester in detention after her case was highlighted by Belgium and the European Union. After her release she become a prominent activist and vocal critic of Ortega.

Nicaragua’s government, which denies harming prisoners, charged Coppens with “terrorism” offences but freed her last June as part of an amnesty.

Coppens, in an interview with Reuters, called for international groups to probe the government, which she said was “violated and trampled” the human rights of Nicaraguans.

“We are demanding that international organizations come to investigate what happened here,” Coppens said in the capital Managua.

“The cases of torture are not isolated and continue to occur in prisons,” she said.

The government did not respond to a request for comment.

Coppens was arrested again in November after bringing water to a group of mothers who were on a hunger strike to highlight their children’s continued detention by the Ortega government.

She was charged with firearms trafficking offences but the case was suspended on Thursday.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Daniel Wallis