Nicaraguan judge sentences 2 children of former president

Mar 21, 2022, 6:48 AM | Updated: Mar 22, 2022, 6:51 am
FILE - Cristiana Chamorro, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconc...

FILE - Cristiana Chamorro, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, and daughter of a former president, arrives at the public Ministry where she was called for a meeting to explain alleged "inconsistencies" in financial reports filed with the government between 2015 and 2019 in Managua, Nicaragua, May 21, 2021. Chamorro has been taken to court on Thursday, March 3, 2022, along with her brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro accused by the the government of Daniel Ortega of money laundering. ( AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

( AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A judge in Nicaragua sentenced Cristiana Chamorro, a journalist, potential presidential contender and daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro, to eight years in prison Monday.

Chamorro and her brother Pedro Joaquín Chamorro were convicted of money laundering and other crimes earlier this month for their work with her mother’s nongovernmental organization, part of a wide-ranging crackdown by President Daniel Ortega on opposition figures and NGOs.

Cristiana Chamorro was ordered back to house arrest, where she has been since June, while Pedro Joaquín Chamorro was sentenced to nine years in prison. They were convicted at the conclusion of a seven-day trial.

Chamorro has maintained her innocence. Both Chamorros are children of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who governed from 1990 to 1997.

Two members of her mother’s foundation were handed 13-year sentences and a driver got seven years, said Vilma Nuñez, director of the nongovernmental Nicaragua Center for Human Rights.

Chamorro was one of several dozen opposition figures imprisoned and sentenced on similar charges by Ortega’s government ahead of last November’s elections.

Ortega has targeted nongovernmental groups in Nicaragua, cutting off their foreign funding, seizing their offices and canceling their charters. He alleges they worked with foreign interests that wanted to see him removed from office.

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation closed its operations in January 2021. It had provided training for journalists, helped finance journalistic outlets and defended freedom of expression.

Cristiana Chamorro, 68, had previously served as editor of La Prensa, Nicaragua’s largest newspaper. Her father, also named Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, was the paper’s editor until his murder in 1978.

The trial was one in a string of trials that began last month inside the notorious El Chipote prison.

Nicaraguan judges have sentenced several opposition leaders, including former high-level officials of the governing Sandinista movement and former presidential contenders, to prison terms for “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.”

Given the notoriously bad conditions at El Chipote and the age of some of the opposition leaders, relatives fear the terms may effectively be death sentences.

Hugo Torres, a former Sandinista guerrilla leader who once led a raid that helped free then rebel Ortega from prison, died while awaiting trial. He was 73.

Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down antigovernment protests in 2018. Ortega says the protests were an attempted coup with foreign backing, and many of those on trial have been accused of working with foreign powers for his overthrow or encouraging foreign nations to apply sanctions on members of his family and government.

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Nicaraguan judge sentences 2 children of former president