Reports: Imprisoned Tacoma man denied appeal in Nicaraguaon August 1, 2012 @ 11:08 am (Updated: 6:21 pm - 8/1/12 )
In 2011, a Nicaraguan court convicted Jason Puracal, 35, of drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime. He was sentenced to 22 years in La Modelo, a dilapidated prison on the outskirts of Managua.
Puracal, a University of Washington graduate who moved to Nicaragua in 2002 with the Peace Corps, was arrested inside his RE/MAX real estate office in the seaside village of San Juan del Sur in Nov. 2010.
Nicaraguan authorities claim Puracal was laundering drug money through his business to fund an operation that brought cocaine into the country from Costa Rica.
During an August 2011 interview with 97.3 KIRO-FM in Rivas, Nicaragua, Puracal denied the charges.
"Anybody who's ever met me will tell you what kind of person I am and will tell you that it's not in my nature. I wouldn't be involved with any of the things that I'm accused of," Puracal said. "It's like something out of a movie."
In recent months, U.S. politicians have come to the defense of Puracal, demanding that the Nicaraguan government show evidence of his guilt or set him free. In May, 43 members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, sent a letter to President Daniel Ortega, urging that he order an independent review of the case.
"We wish to convey our serious concern about the trial and appeal of American citizen, Jason Puracal," reads the letter, dated May 9, 2012. It argues that Puracal was denied due process and is being held in a prison that does not meet internationally accepted standards of human rights.
" ... there is a compelling need for a thorough and objective prosecutorial review of Mr. Puracal's case to determine his innocence under Nicaraguan law," the letter reads.
Also in May, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for Puracal's immediate release after finding that his detention was in violation of international law.
At the time, Janis Puracal, Jason Puracal's sister, believed the ruling would apply international pressure on the Nicaraguan government to set her brother free.
"There are experts at the U.N. who have agreed that Jason's detention is arbitrary and demanded that he be immediately released," said Janis Puracal, a Seattle-based attorney. "What this means for us, is now the international community has spoken here and demanded Jason's release ... and the Nicaraguan leadership is going to have to respond to that demand in some way."
Hopes for Puracal's release seemed to rest on a scheduled June 25 appeal before a three-judge appellate panel in Granada, Nicaragua. The David House Agency, an international crisis resource organization that aids Americans who face legal battles abroad, has now said the appeal was inexplicably canceled.
It has not been rescheduled, said Janis Puracal.
"He has a right to appeal. He absolutely has that right," she said. "I don't believe, in my heart, that they can end things here.
"It feels like we're working against the world at this point. It's so frustrating for us. We've had thousands of people screaming for Jason's release, including the U.S. government and experts from around the world, and the Nicaraguan government has not released him."
Janis Puracal will travel to Nicaragua next week in an attempt to meet with Nicaraguan officials. She will be joined by her younger sister, Jaime Puracal.
According to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith's office, Puracal's appeal has not been officially denied, but has not moved forward as scheduled.
Investigators, engineers, and lawmakers scramble to fix I-5 after bridge collapses
It was "like a roller coaster where you're not attached to the tracks"
Washington has an unfortunate history of bridge disasters
Bonneville Media encourages site users to express their opinions by posting comments. Our goal is to maintain a civil dialogue in which readers feel comfortable. At times, the comments can descend to personal attacks. Please do not engage in such behavior. We encourage your thoughtful comments which: have a positive and constructive tone, are on topic, are respectful toward others and their opinions. Bonneville reserves the right to remove comments which do not conform to these criteria.