Police put a Catholic bishop under house arrest after raiding a diocese in Nicaragua

Police entered the headquarters of the Diocese of Matagalpa and arrested Bishop Rolando Alvarez and others, officials said in a statement posted on social media.

The statement did not give a reason for the arrests, but said they were part of an investigation launched on August 5 into “destabilizing and provocative” activities in the country. A later police statement added that all were taken to the capital, Managua, for “legal questioning”.

Hours later, Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo said in a speech that police were restoring order in Matagalpa and that the bishop’s arrest was “necessary.” The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights meanwhile condemned the arrests and called for the “immediate release” of the detainees.

Nicaragua’s authoritarian government, led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife Murillo, has increasingly tightened its grip on the country since mass anti-government demonstrations in 2018 — a turbulent period in which protesters and their families sought refuge from repeated pro-government attacks. -Government troops in country churches and cathedrals.

At that time the bishops of the Episcopal Conference participated as mediators in the national dialogue, convening various social sectors with the government in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the political conflict.

Ortega, 76, took office last November for a fifth term as president. In the run-up to the vote, his government began using a broad national security law as justification for jailing opposition presidential candidates, opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists and others ahead of the vote. Since that year, the country now has “virtually no independent media,” according to reporters from the press advocacy group Borders.

Under another law that deems any entity that receives international funding a “foreign agent,” more than 190 non-governmental organizations have been shut down by mid-June.

Police began investigating the diocese after Alvarez opposed the closure of Catholic radio stations in the area. During his sermons and on his social media accounts, he urged prayer and dialogue in the country and said he did not know why he was being investigated.

According to a police statement, Bishop Alvarez is now under house arrest in Managua and other religious figures have been taken to the city’s Directorate of Judicial Assistance.

Managua Archbishop Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes was allowed to meet Alvarez “and he spoke extensively,” police said.

The Archdiocese of Managua did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The Holy See has previously expressed concern over the situation in the Central American nation. At a special session of the OAS on August 11, the Vatican Permanent Observer, Msgr., focused on the situation in Nicaragua. Juan Antonio Cruz Serrano appealed to the country’s parties to “find ways of understanding based on respect and mutual trust, above all to seek the common good and peace.”

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