The abuses suffered by the political prisoners at the infamous El Chipote jail have now extended to their families. The latter were allowed to visit in mid-October, only the second permitted visit since the prisoners were jailed, up to four and a half months ago. Most of them have been held otherwise incommunicado since they were arrested in a series of raids ordered by the Ortega government conducted from late May through July, aimed at imprisoning prominent government opponents.
Maria Josefina Gurdian, known as Pinita, is the mother of political prisoner Ana Margarita Vijil, and the grandmother of Tamara Davila, also imprisoned for her opposition work. Gurdian expressed her views during a press conference, reading a statement in the name of all the political prisoners’ relatives. Among other things, the family members who were allowed visits declared they were subjected to harassment and even “humiliating physical searches”.
“During our visits, we noted an exponential increase in the police force. Many of us suffered humiliating body searches, that included checking our underwear and having our personal objects removed, including eyeglasses, hand sanitizer and photos of other sick relatives or of children.” Gurdian read from the joint press statement.
She also stated that the police were taping families as they greeted the political prisoners, or when they said goodbye. They were even obligated to pose for the cameras, a process that took away from valuable visiting time. During this encounter, the regime had extended the allowed visitation time, from a scant 30 minutes in the September, up to two hours.
Families fear for the prisoners’ health
The press statement also expressed that the political prisoners’ health condition continues to deteriorate. An example of this is the case of Dr. Jose Pallais, 69, who has lost 44 pounds. Similarly, Jose Adan Aguerri, former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), has dropped 30 pounds due to the poor nutrition the prisoners receive.
Confidencial collected testimony from the families of the political prisoners who were able to visit earlier this week. Georgi Aguirre Sacasa, daughter of imprisoned former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, declared that they’re only receiving two servings a day of rice and beans.
Because of that, the majority of the political prisoners have lost weight. They’re also extremely pale, because they’re only allowed out in the sun for a 30-minute period, every two weeks. Some of them are still being held in complete isolation, as is the case of Tamara Davila, who’s being held in a “highly secured” cell, according to denunciations from her families. None are allowed any communication with the other prisoners, under pain of taking away their food.
Relatives also denounced that the distribution of medications lacks order; the prisoners only receive unmarked medication, so that they don’t know exactly what’s being given them.
“They haven’t allowed any outside medical reviews, not even in the cases of preexisting medical conditions that could easily lead to the development of other conditions (…) Many of our family members that have enjoyed good health are requesting medications to help with anxiety,” part of the statement asserts.
Another complaint repeated by the families is that many of them are suffering the effects of the cold. The “Chipote authorities haven’t allowed us to bring them sheets to cover themselves with. In the case of Juan Sebastian Chamorro, for example, the only thing he has to cover himself with is the bath towel, that he also needs as a pillow.
They demand the release of all the 150 political prisoners
In the press conference, relatives of the other 113 political prisoners were also in attendance. The latter are being held in the prison known as “El Modelo”. They added their voices to the clamor to free their family members. Many of this group of political prisoners have now been in prison for over two years.
“[We demand] the immediate, unconditional liberation of our family members. They’re all innocent of the charges the Prosecution has filed against them, and they’re legally entitled to their freedom,” they demanded.
Added to this was a demand that the right to weekly visits in El Modelo be respected. The families of that group of prisoners complain that at times the dates of these are changed, with no prior notice. They also want permission for minors to visit, so they can have contact with their parents.
Finally, the family members demanded an end to the isolation, as well as an end to the interrogations the prisoners are being subjected to, without their lawyers’ presence.