[Urgent Alert] NICARAGUA / Transgender political prisoner Celia Cruz on hunger strike for freedom since September 30.

Since last September 30, the transgender activist and human rights defender Celia Cruz  has waged a hunger strike together with other political prisoners held in the Jorge Navarro penitentiary, also known as “La Modelo” (The Model). They are protesting inhuman conditions in the prison and demanding freedom from their unjust imprisonment. 

During the hunger strike, Celia has been the victim of mistreatment by the Assistant Director of the prison, who forces her to leave her cell to eat and orders her to be photographed. Celia is suffering intense pain in her knees and hips that comes from sleeping on a very thin mat on the floor. She has denounced the fact that family visits take place under precarious conditions and that officials have taken photos and recorded conversations in the visits. 

Since her arrest on April 21, 2020, after participating in the live transmission of a demonstration on the Isle of Ometepe to celebrate the second anniversary of the peaceful insurrection against the government, Celia has been the target of numerous abuses. She has received death threats and other forms of aggression in prison in addition to the continuous acts of humiliation that she suffers for being a transgender woman and political prisoner. 

We have also received alarming reports regarding the situation of the other political prisoners on hunger strike. Some of them have apparently been consigned to punishment cells, and some have sewn their lips together as a form of protest. Political prisoner Jose Gadiel Sequiera Zaora suffered serious burns on his hand when, after refusing to eat, he was pushed by the Assistant Director of Gallery IV and as a result, fell into a pot of boiling water where food was being served. 

We of IM-Defensoras express our solidarity with Celia Cruz and our unconditional support for her just and legitimate demands for freedom.  

We call on the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the Jorge Navarro penitentiary in order to monitor the situation of the hunger strikers and give them the humanitarian care that they require.  

We hold the Nicaraguan government responsible for the life and the physical, moral and psychological integrity of Celia Cruz and the other persons on hunger strike, and we remind government officials of their duty to provide clear, accurate, detailed information to the families about their state of being.

And finally, we call on the international community to shoulder responsibility for the struggle of Celia Cruz and the other political prisoners on hunger strike for justice and freedom from their unjust imprisonment; these demands also apply to the rest of the political prisoners who are deprived of their freedom in Nicaragua.  

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