Twelve years in prison for sharing opinions on social networks

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Donald Enrique Alvarenga shows a photo of his father Donald Margarito Alvarenga. Photo: Confidential

By confidential

HAVANA TIMES – Donald Margarito Alvarenga Mendoza’s last Facebook post was a video of The Logical Song, by British rock band Supertramp, on Thursday, October 28, 2021. Ten days later, on November 6, he was arrested by Daniel police Ortega and, on January 13, 2022, one of the leader’s judges found him guilty of allegedly inciting “hate and violence”, through Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages.

Alvarenga, 56, is a former FSLN guerrilla fighter and served as a civil servant in the Interior Ministry in the 1980s. He is the first Nicaraguan opposition member convicted under the Special Cybercrime Law or “Gag Law”, and Law 1055 or “Sovereignty Law”, both approved at the end of 2020. He was charged with the alleged crimes of “subversion, disobedience and rebellion”. at the level of conspiracy to affect national integrity”.

A review of Alvarenga’s posts over the past few months only shows that Citizen is a fan of ’70s and ’80s rock bands, as well as protest music. His only posts with a political connotation were to demand the release of political prisoners, and a call not to vote in the November 7 elections in which Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo gave themselves one more mandate, after arresting the main candidates of the opposition, civic and political. leaders and the cancellation of the legal status of opposition parties.

“Everyone in Chichigalpa (Chinandega Township) knows that my father is an opponent of the government; and they (the opponents) share the posts among themselves. As my father said at the time: “I am not responsible for the posts or messages that are sent to my Facebook, because it is a free media”, commented Donald Enrique Alvarenga, son of the condemned political prisoner .

Judge’s reasoning

The trial against Alvarenga lasted more than 12 hours and took place in a single day. It was in the hands of Rosa Velia Baca Cardoza, judge for the Chinandega criminal district in northwestern Nicaragua, who claimed that Alvarenga’s “posts, expressions and messages” incited “hate and violence “.

She also alleged that the citizen was “promoting meetings for the purpose of creating anxiety, instability, anguish and despair in the people” of Chichigalpa.

January 18and, the judge first imposed a sentence of seven and a half years in prison, but a day later she rectified it and increased it to twelve years. A sentence of eight years “for the crime of undermining national integrity (conspiracy)” and another four years “for the crime of spreading false news through information and communication technologies” , according to the rectification order of Baca Cardoza.

“Some posts have been found that I honestly don’t see any problem with. In fact, I don’t think the things my father posted on his Facebook page can psychologically harm people,” his son Donald Enrique said.

The evidence against Alvarenga was the testimony of seven police officers, some posts on his Facebook page and some messages in a WhatsApp group.

Norvin Cruz Ponce, Alvarenga’s defense attorney, said in an interview with the Esta Semana program – broadcast on Facebook and YouTube due to regime censorship – that the judge had not taken into account the inconsistencies in the evidence provided by the police and the prosecution. Account.

The defense attorney said that during the trial he asked the officers if they saw which victims had been frightened by the publication Alvarenga allegedly made, and whether a professional had determined that emotional affect.

According to Cruz, the police justified this by saying that they could not bring in “half of the Nicaraguan population, which was psychologically affected by the publication”, to which the defense lawyer explained “that it was not necessary to bring half of Nicaragua. It was enough to bring several people and demonstrate that they were emotionally affected by legal medical advice, which they did not offer”.

Illegal detention

Alvarenga was detained at his home on the night of November 6, 2021, on the eve of the national election. However, in the indictment of the prosecutor Maria Francis Perez Mojica, it is stated that the citizen was arrested on the public highway, on November 15.

According to the family, Donald Margarito was in an armchair in the living room of his home when three officers entered and told him to come with them. The opponent got up, walked to a closet about ten paces from the sofa, put on a shirt and left with the police, without resisting. Outside the house were two patrol cars filled with riot police.

Alvarenga’s house is half a block from the Chichigalpa City Hall. It is an old building, with high ceilings. There used to be a cafe, but it was closed in 2020 because the municipality and other state offices, like the Social Security office, banned their employees from buying food there.

“The individual was detained at his home. They did not arrest him, say, ‘infraganti’, in the commission of a crime, therefore the law has certain limits. The right to liberty can be violated if someone is caught committing a crime,” the defense lawyer pointed out. This was clearly not the case.

The police report indicates that Alvarenga was denounced by Ramon Cesar Quintana, chief of police of Chichigalpa. However, on the day of the arrest, agents from this delegation informed the family that they were unaware of the arrest. The citizen was taken directly to the Chinandega police station.

Alvarenga’s son said that on Monday, November 8, he went to Chinandega police station, where he was met by a captain, who informed him that his father “was being held under investigation”. However, he did not tell her why Donald Margarito was being investigated, arguing that he could not “talk about this subject”.

Confiscated cell phone

During the unlawful arrest, Alvarenga handed his mobile phone to one of his sons, as he put on his shirt to accompany the officers. This was observed by one of the policemen who, after taking the opponent out of his house, returned to the house and threatened the young man with arrest, so that he gave him the mobile phone.

“If Margarito’s (Alvarenga) phone hasn’t been restrained by a court order, anything from that point on is null and void,” attorney Cruz said.

According to the records, a touchscreen mobile phone, LG K62, light blue in color, and with capacity for a SIM memory card belonging to the accused was confiscated. The phone was assessed by a police expert, Sub-Inspector Wilson Marton Díaz Ríos, who reportedly found “evidence of the crimes”.

“What did they find out on the phone?” Police IT experts arrived (at the trial) and said they found unfavorable government content, publications which, according to Article 30 of the Special Law on Cybercrime, refer to false or distorted information” , explained the lawyer.

“First of all, it would have been necessary to demonstrate whether they were true or false, and above all, to know who published them, since they appeared in a WhatsApp group called Los Pingüinos”, he pointed out.

The court filing details that allegedly on May 19, 2021, in this WhatsApp group, an image of a mortarboard with the message “If the people don’t have peace, neither will the goddamn government.”

According to the lawyer, “some critical statements were made to the government in a group called ‘Los Pingüinos’, but not specifically from Mr. Margarito’s number. Even he, when he spoke (at the trial), told the judge that ‘I cannot be responsible for the posts sent to my phone’”.

Police espionage

In his testimony before the judge, commissioner Quintana revealed that the national police had been spying on Alvarenga since July 2019, through “secret sources in Chichigalpa, intelligence officers and civilians”, among them the head of the FSLN of the region, Ramon Pastora.

“(The police) speak in the accusation that they had been following him since 2019, but the law with which they condemn him was promulgated at the end of 2020. So there is an attack on the principle of retroactivity established in the Political Constitution. “Cruz said.

The special law on cybercrime, known as the “gag law”, was approved by the National Assembly in October 2020. This legislation provides up to ten years in prison for citizens who, according to the regime, broadcast fake news, via social networks and media.

Law 1055 or the “Sovereignty Law” was approved on December 21, 2020. The prosecutor’s office has turned this legislation into a repressive tool, by which they justify arrests against opponents of the regime.

The Alvarenga family said they had never had a police presence in their home, as has happened with other regime opponents, so they were surprised to learn that Donald Margarito was under surveillance.

A relative of Donald Margarito Alvarenga shows a photo of the opponent of the Ortega government. Photo: Confidential

Sandinista fighter

The only incident was graffiti on the front of his house. This happened after the 2018 citizen protests in Chichigalpa, in which Alvarenga participated.

“Since there was a café in the house, they scratched the wall and wrote ‘Restaurante El Golpeon'” commented Donald Enrique, who also added: “My father was not intimidated and on the Facebook page of the café, he changed the name from Las Delicias to El Golpeon. It was a way of showing the government that it (the graffiti) didn’t affect him.” The term El Golpeon is derived from golpe de estado, which means shot State.

“He said to me, ‘Son, I know where I am. I know what I’m getting myself into; maybe at some point things can happen, but don’t worry. This will change, all this fight is not in vain”, declared the son of the political prisoner.

The Ortega dictatorship is the second against which Donald Margarito is fighting. The Chichigalpa native joined the ranks of the Sandinista Front in 1978, when he was 15 years old. He joined the revolutionary cause after the murder of a cousin at the hands of the Somoza Guard. Those close to Alvarenga assure that he never stopped being a Sandinista, but that he does not agree with the current leadership of the FSLN.

Alvarenga was Chief of Officers and Executives in the Interior Ministry in the early 1980s, but left the police to study agricultural engineering at the National Agrarian University (UNA). “He decided to leave the police, but he never abandoned his Sandinista ideals,” assured Donald Enrique.

“There were a lot of things he didn’t like about the Sandinista Front, about how positions and candidates were nominated. He has always been one of those who say: ‘Let’s vote, let’s elect, and don’t say that so and so is going to do such and such a thing’”, says his son.

“At the time, he moved from the FSLN to the MRS (Movimiento Renovador Sandinista). He says what is happening now in the Sandinista Front is not Sandino’s thought,” he added.

Last October, Donald Margarito posted three videos on Facebook of The Logical Song, which tells the story of a “simple man” who, as a young man, lived in a world that seemed “wonderful” and “magical”, but in growing up, he wonders “who he is” and what he does in a “damn wonderful” world.

Read more about Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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