Nicaragua convicts businessmen in latest phase of political crackdown

ALBA group representatives gather in Havana
Nicaraguas President Daniel Ortega attends a two-day meeting with ALBA group representatives at the Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, December 14, 2021. Alberto Roque/Pool via REUTERS

MANAGUA, April 29 (Reuters) - Two top executives of Nicaragua's largest business association have been convicted of "undermining national integrity", in the latest of a series of judicial actions against political opponents of President Daniel Ortega.

More than 40 of Ortega's opponents have been convicted of crimes such as treason and money laundering since the lead-up to presidential elections in November that handily won him a fourth consecutive term in office. read more

Friday's convictions of Michael Healy, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), and its vice president, Alvaro Vargas, came on charges comparable to treason under Nicaraguan law, a rights body said.

"We reject and condemn this judicial pantomime," the body, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), said in a statement demanding their immediate release.

Healy faced up to 13 years in prison and Vargas faced up to 9, with sentencing expected next week, it added.

The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Healy and Vargas, arrested last October and accused of "laundering money, property and assets to the detriment of the Nicaraguan state and society," were also members of the opposition group Civic Alliance. read more

Ortega's government has become increasingly isolated and condemned internationally for its crackdowns against the president's opponents and critical media in the Central American country he has dominated since returning to power 15 years ago.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez in Managua; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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