Nicaraguan sensibilities were shaken last week by news of the death of Heidi Meza, mother of political prisoner Max Jerez. Ignoring all appeals, the Ortega-Murillo regime refused to allow the university student a final visit to his dying parent. Dolly Mora, a member of the Nicaraguan University Alliance, characterized these actions as “inhumane”.
Max Jerez was arbitrarily detained the night of July 5 and taken to the cells of the “El Chipote” jail. He’s still there, along with more than thirty other opposition leaders, students, business leaders, union figures, bankers and journalists.
Since July, Jerez’ family has only been permitted to see him briefly once. However, on Friday, September 17, Mora and his lawyer both launched frantic efforts to allow him a humanitarian visit so he could say goodbye to his mother, who was in critical condition.
The regime responded with silence
Dolly Mora, a young student leader, was with Max Jerez and Lester Aleman the night of their detention. In an interview on September 19 for the online television news program Esta Semana, she spoke of her efforts to get authorities to grant Jerez the right to a final visit. Jerez’ family contacted Mora on Friday morning to say that doctors attending to Heidi had told them she likely had very few hours left to live.
Mora spoke with the family about posting a general alert and petitioning the jail authorities. She and Jerez’ lawyer then took the doctors’ report and prognosis to the jail administration to inform them of Heidi’s health condition. Although they had brought all the necessary documentation, the jail authorities said they couldn’t do anything, because such requests had to be made through the court system.
They then went to the courts since they’d already prepared the legal brief. Upon arriving at the judicial complex, they were told that personnel and the judges were on vacation and would return on Monday. However, there was one open window for service, where they could turn in the brief. The lawyer then brought the document over to that window, “At first, they didn’t want to take it. After a lot of effort, they eventually received it, but in the end, they didn’t do anything at all (about the appeal).” Mora explained.
“We’ve said, and we repeat: this is a matter of political will, above and beyond the bureaucracy and the legalities. All of the latter are arbitrary processes. None of the prisoners have been granted due process or a legally correct trial.
Max isn’t the first prisoner to be refused the opportunity to say goodbye to his mother, or to a close family member who’s dying. We knocked on all the doors – not only the legal avenues, but also other channels. We’ve even made different appeals to the Catholic Church. Really, there was just no will (on the part of the regime), just as there was none in the past with other prisoners, so they could say goodbye to their family members. It’s inhumane,” was Mora’s final verdict.
Lesther Aleman, another young prisoner, also seriously ill
During her interview on Esta Semana, Mora expressed concern that, once again, no one has seen the prisoners. At the end of August and beginning of September, each of the political prisoners in the El Chipote jail was allowed one 30-minute visit with a family member. Also, their lawyers were allowed to be present at the subsequent preliminary hearings. Since then, not even the Red Cross – whose regular mission includes visits to prisoners to confirm their condition – has been permitted.
The same stone wall that arose in the case of Max Jerez has occurred with Lesther Aleman and the rest of the political prisoners. Appeals have been made to the Red Cross, to the Apostolic Nuncio, “and all the channels that have been used for this type of request. All doors have remained absolutely closed. There’s no response. The Red Cross tells us they haven’t been authorized to visit, or to interview each of the political prisoners to be able to attest to their physical condition,” Mora declared.
In the case of Lesther Aleman, there’s special concern. “We also put out an alert on this,” says Mora, after the description that was given to them by Lesbia, Lesther’s mother, after her only visit. The mother was “very upset, because Lesther is naturally thin, but she found him much thinner and pale.” Lesbia also reported that her son spoke in a very low voice, like he didn’t have the strength to speak louder.
Mora noted that Aleman’s situation seems to be the result of a common tactic. He hasn’t received physical tortures such as blows, but they consider it a form of physical torture to be denied three adequate meals a day, at normal hours.
“A week later, at the hearing, the defense lawyer contacted us. His mother reported that he was very thin and weak, but the lawyer told us that Lesther couldn’t even walk. Officials there had to help him get up. He gave us a much stronger warning about his state of health, and we decided to post a general alert,” Dolly Mora explained.
Following that hearing on September 9, no one knows what’s happening with Lesther Aleman: not the lawyer, and not the family. They’ve filed legal briefs to ask that he receive appropriate medical attention. However, even in this area, there’s distrust, since the doctor in charge of checking him wouldn’t be an independent physician, but one from the Institute of Legal Medicine, the government agency responsible for medical evaluations. “They’ve also been co opted (…) just like the whole justice system, and every other branch of government,” noted Dolly Mora.
Despite everything, Mora’s summary of the situation was hopeful. “Although no one is prepared to go to jail, there’s the hope and strength that comes from their commitment to this country. In the end, everything that occurs and the things that are happening (to us) are all for seeking freedom for Nicaragua. They (Max Jerez and Lesther Aleman) are two very brave young people, deeply committed to this country. We hope they’ll soon be free, together with all the political prisoners who’ve been unjustly abducted and detained.”