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[WHRD Alert] NICARAGUA / Masaya activist illegally arrested, criminalized and jailed for second time

January 29, 2021

Julia Christina Hernández Arévalo

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Social and political rights

THE FACTS – Julia Hernández has been criminalized and deprived of her freedom since January 7th, accused of crimes that she did not commit.  That day, anti-riot police with dogs illegally entered her residence in Masaya, supposedly looking for arms and drugs. Although they found no evidence whatsoever of criminal activity, they arrested her husband Eduardo José Morales Gadea and took him away, confiscating the cell phones and identity documents of both. They then obliged Julia to go with them to another family property under construction, also located in Masaya, where they proceeded to illegally break in and search the place, finding absolutely nothing there either, according to the testimony of neighbors. 

Since then, Julia has not returned to her home. It was not until fifteen days later, January 22nd, when she was finally allowed to call her family, that they found out she had been taken to the “La Esperanza” women’s penitentiary.  Julia, along with her husband, was charged with the commission of the alleged crimes of “trafficking drugs and psychotropic or other controlled substances, and the manufacture, sale, possession, and use of restricted arms and explosive substances and devices.” As of now, the whereabouts of her husband remains unknown. 

Since the outbreak of the socio-political and human rights crisis that the country has gone through since April of 2018, Julia Hernández has played a highly active role in the anti-government protests that have taken place in Masaya.  As a result, in November of 2019 she was illegally detained for nine days even though no charges were filed against her. 

The arrest and criminalization of Julia Hernández seems to follow a pattern of persecution similar to that enacted against other political prisoners in Nicaragua, who have been charged with fabricated crimes related to drug trafficking and the use of arms in order to give them long prison sentences that serve as an example of what might happen to anyone who follows in their footsteps. The aim is to spread fear among the general public and discourage anti-government protests, as has also been the case with political prisoner María Esperanza Sánchez

Julia suffers from diabetes and, as far as her family has been able to find out, she is not being given the required medicine. In view of the precedents of gross mistreatment and torture including sexual torture denounced by other political prisoners, it is cause for concern that up until now family members of Julia Hernández have not been able to see her and verify her state of being. Furthermore, the family has had no access to information about the whereabouts and situation of Julia’s husband Eduardo José Morales.

In the same vein, it is important to note that Julia bears responsibility for persons who depend on her, including a nine-year-old son and her mother, who is an older adult with a disability. 

We of IM-Defensoras denounce the illegal arrest, violation of due process of law, and criminalization of Julia Hernández, and we hold the Nicaraguan government responsible for any violation whatsoever of her physical or psychological integrity. 

Julia Hernández has not committed a single crime and should be released and returned to her home immediately. We call on the international community to express solidarity with her and to stay abreast of her situation, joining in the demand for her freedom and that of all political prisoners unjustly imprisoned in Nicaragua.