A Roman Catholic bishop was sentenced to 26 years in Nicaraguan prison Friday on charges of treason after refusing to be exiled to the United States.
Rolando Alvarez was stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship and sentenced to 26 years in prison after criticizing Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega following the government’s harsh crackdown of anti-Ortega protests in 2018 that left nearly 300 people dead and 2,000 injured, Al Jazeera reported. As priests attempted to mediate a peaceful solution during the protests, Ortega accused the church leaders of attempting a coup, Reuters reported. (RELATED: Police In Nicaragua Arrest Opposition Leader, The 22nd Detainment In Two Months)
Since that time Ortega has reportedly moved to imprison or expel Catholic leaders, even shuttering Catholic radio and television stations, Reuters stated.
The Appeals Court of Managua convicts the Bishop of Matagalpa for treason undermining national integrity and spreading false news and strips him of his Nicaraguan citizenshiphttps://t.co/WLlyewsId5
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) February 11, 2023
Silvio José Baez, an exiled bishop who resides in Miami, condemned Alvarez’s conviction, likening the Nicaraguan government to that of a dictatorship.
“Irrational and unbridled hatred of the Nicaraguan dictatorship against Bishop Rolando Alvarez. They are vengeful against him. They have not resisted his moral height and his prophetic coherence. Rolando will be free, God will not abandon him. They sink every day in their fear and their evil,” he wrote on Twitter.
After Alvarez’s August arrest, Pope Francis urged for “open and sincere dialogue” with the Nicaraguan government expressing his hope “that the basis for a respectful and peaceful coexistence [could] still be found,” Vatican News reported.
Alvarez was initially included with four other priests and 222 other political prisoners of the Nicaraguan government to be exiled to the United States in a prisoner exchange, but the bishop refused. Instead, Alvarez opted to serve his 26 year sentence as a prisoner in Nicaragua to stand as a protest against other Catholics who are being persecuted by the Nicaraguan government, Fox News reported.
Among the charges Alvarez was convicted of were treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news, Reuters reported.