Nicaragua sentences former official to 13 years in prison

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Nicaraguan judges on Monday sentenced a former high-ranking Sandinista official to 13 years in prison for “conspiring to undermine the unity of the nation”.

Victor Hugo Tinoco is one of dozens of opposition leaders who were arrested by President Daniel Ortega last year to clear the way for his re-election virtually unopposed.

Tinoco was deputy foreign minister during the first Sandinista government in 1979 but later split with Ortega. Tinoco also served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations and was the main negotiator in peace talks with the US-backed Contras.

The Nicaragua Center for Human Rights said Tinoco, 69, had been ordered to serve 13 years in prison, although some of the older victims of the crackdown were subjected to some form of house arrest.

Authorities ordered home detention of three opposition figures with health problems, a week after another died after months in prison.

Former Foreign Minister Francisco Aguirre-Sacasa, 77, former Deputy Foreign Minister Jose Ballet, 68, and former ambassador to the United States Arturo Cruz Sequeira, 68, were ordered to be confined to the home.

The three were accused of plotting to destabilize the country, a charge brought against dozens of opposition figures.

Hugo Torres, a former Sandinista guerrilla leader who once led a raid that helped free Ortega’s rebels from prison, died a week ago while awaiting trial. He was 73 years old.