(LifeSiteNews) — Communist dictator Daniel Ortega sentenced his regime’s most hated Catholic bishop to 26 years in prison.
On Friday, February 10, Judge Héctor Ernesto Ochoa Andino, president of Criminal Chamber 1 of the Managua Court of Appeals, imposed a prison sentence of 26 years and four months against Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa on charges of being “a traitor to the country” for the alleged crimes of “undermining national security and sovereignty, spreading fake news through information technology, obstructing an official in the performance of his duties,” and “aggravated disobedience or contempt of authority.”
#Breaking: Government of Nicaragua has sentenced Bishop Álvarez to 26 years in prison for “treason” after he refuses to leave his parishioners yesterday when offered a flight to freedom in the US. 📸 Conferncia Episcopal de Nicaragua pic.twitter.com/GvCuQ4KXk9
— Kelsey Wicks (@justforkwicks) February 10, 2023
The bishop was also disqualified perpetually “from exercising public office on behalf of or at the service of the State of Nicaragua,” and was stripped of Nicaraguan nationality. The latter punishment was only made possible through a law and constitutional reform passed by the National Assembly of Nicaragua the day before on February 9.
That same day, 222 political prisoners of Ortega’s regime were released and deported to the U.S. for standing up to the communist government for its civil and religious persecution of its citizens. Bishop Álvarez had reportedly refused to leave the country without first speaking to his fellow bishops and priests. Friday’s sentence appears to have fallen on his head with a special vengeance for his refusal to leave Nicaragua.
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, who has been an outspoken voice for the persecuted Catholics of Nicaragua, welcomed the released prisoners on Friday and again called on the Pope to advocate for the persecuted bishop.
In a statement Friday, Smith declared, “We must continue to work to combat the brutal Ortega regime and free the remaining prisoners — including courageous Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who refuses to abandon his flock. He is truly a Christ-like figure with a servant’s heart, and we continue to urge Pope Francis to speak unequivocally on his behalf and seek his release.”
“We will continue to advocate for those who remain imprisoned by the Ortega regime and suffer beatings and torture,” Smith continued. “We also know that those freed have been exiled and vilified by Ortega’s thug regime, because Ortega fears their voices. They should know that the United States stands unequivocally with them and their noble commitment to democracy and respect for universally recognized human rights.”
The bishops of Chile also condemned the imprisonment of Álvarez, declaring it “unjust, arbitrary, and disproportionate.”
“We deplore and reject the situation experienced by Bishop Álvarez and the Church in Nicaragua, which violates human rights, the essential dignity of the person and religious freedom,” the Chilean bishops said. They likewise denounced Ortega’s deportation of the 222 political prisoners and their deprivation of nationality and civil rights.
The bishops of Spain joined those of Chile in calling for Álvarez’s immediate release. Although Pope Francis lamented the situation, rather than condemn the move by Ortega’s communist regime, the Pontiff prayed for the imprisoned bishop and called for dialogue as in the past.
Ortega escalates crackdown on Catholic Church in Nicaragua with clergy, laymen sentenced to prison