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Yoel Sandino Ibarra, political prisoner for creating a Facebook page

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Yoel Sandino Ibarra, political prisoner for creating a Facebook page

After the first days of the social outbreak of 2018, Yoel Ibzan Sandino Ibarra, then 21 years old, created a Facebook page to share information about the sociopolitical crisis that Nicaragua was experiencing. The young man never imagined the scope that the virtual space called “Free Minds” would have, much less, he suspected that four years later, Ortega’s justice system would use it against him in a secret political trial.

Sandino was captured on Friday, November 5, 2021, while he was in a gym in the Linda Vista sector, in Managua. The arrest was carried out by police intelligence officers, who beat him during the journey to station two, where he was subjected to interrogations during the early hours, in which they asked him who financed his Facebook page, his relatives say. .

His arrest is part of a 27 arrests carried out on the eve of the general votes, in which Daniel Ortega was guaranteed a new consecutive term, with all the presidential candidates, social and political leaders imprisoned in the Directorate of Judicial Assistance (DAJ), El Chipote.

He is “a good son”, “intelligent” and “scholar” proudly described by his mother, Yamilet Ibarra. Sandino studied languages, social media management, and graphic design at a technical institute in Managua. However, his great dream was always to study medicine, so he took all the necessary steps to start his career in 2022, but his aspirations were frustrated.

“He already had all his grades ready to enroll, however the kidnapping by the ruling lords of our country, Nicaragua, has shattered the dream of a young citizen, simply exercising his right to express himself,” said his mother.

The Prosecutor’s Office aligned with the Ortega regime accused the digital activist of committing the alleged crimes of “propagation of false news” and “undermining national integrity”; the same ones that have been used against other citizens captured in the 2021 political roundup, despite the fact that several of them have no ties to opposition organizations and have not been involved in politics either.

The 25-year-old is one of those cases. He does not belong to any organization opposed to the regime and was not directly involved in the civic protests of April 2018. His participation in the civic struggle, like many Nicaraguans, has been through social networks. He collected videos that showed the human rights violations that occurred in Nicaragua, in addition to data and art on the country’s situation, explained his mother, who rejected the accusations against his son and reiterated his innocence.

Publications that triggered his capture

On the morning of November 5, Sandino published the following message on his Free Minds page: “7 are the presidential candidates that Daniel Ortega illegally imprisoned for fear of losing against one of them” and in the afternoon, he was captured. His mother believes that publication triggered the arbitrary arrest, after months of persecution and siege by civilians.

His case is full of questions because the entire judicial process has been carried out under total secrecy. Before he was transferred from Police Station Two to the Jorge Navarro Penitentiary System, known as La Modelo, on December 1, 2021, he had already undergone a preliminary and initial hearing and a “lightning” trial, by Judge Rolando Sanarrusia. Munguía, of the Sixth Criminal District Court of Hearings of Managua, on November 25.

The Prosecutor’s Office used this publication as evidence against the digital activist, Yoel Sandino Ibarra

The family does not know details of the accusation because they did not participate in the trial hearing and until recently they had the assistance of a private defender. In such a way that Sandino “was totally unprotected,” his mother denounced.

For its part, the Prosecutor’s Office used four publications from the Free Minds page as key evidence: the first, where Sandino pointed out the imprisonment of the pre-candidates; the second and third, related to the Renacer Law -approved by the United States- and the last one, supporting the presidential candidacy of Cristiana Chamorro -political prisoner of the regime-.

The Public Ministry requested 12 years in prison for the young activist – seven years for conspiracy and five for spreading false news. “They condemned him for all his media work opposing disrespect for human rights and the Political Constitution of Nicaragua,” questions his mother, who is very concerned about his physical and mental integrity.

He adds that his son only exercised a universal right, such as expressing himself freely from a social network. He even explained that the Free Minds page has grown so much that there are homonymous initiatives managed by people outside and inside Nicaragua. “It’s not my son’s fault – that it has gone viral. Now he is in prison and all those pages are working there, ”said his mother.

Sandino’s case adds to the arbitrary arrests and questioned processes of political prisoners Douglas Hills, Santos Camilo Bellorin, Donald Margarito Alvarenga and Nidia Barbosa, who were also arrested on the eve of the general votes, and later, accused and sentenced by the Ortega justice with sentences of 11 to 12 years in prison for violating the Sovereignty Law and the Cybercrime Law, better known as the “Gag Law” ; both are part of a package of punitive laws used as a political weapon against dissenting voices.

As has happened with Sandino, the Prosecutor’s Office used the publications of the accused against him, presenting them as evidence of the commission of the alleged crimes. However, the defense attorneys explain that the prisoners of conscience have only exercised their right to freedom of expression contemplated in article 30 of the Political Constitution.

Sandino, who in his free time enjoyed reading science books, playing video games and exercising, is still awaiting his sentence in La Modelo. At his trial, he barely managed to say that he was innocent and that “Nicaragua will be free.”

Waiting for medical attention

Sandino’s mother is concerned about her son’s health, since he has a congenital cyst on his head that measures four centimeters. The neurologist who treated him ordered that he be evaluated every six months, but the arrest has not been carried out. The pathology also involves other types of affectations in the control of pressure, breathing, dizziness, double vision and severe headaches.

According to Ibarra, the young man was scheduled for an appointment with the specialist on December 10, 2021, but the prison authorities did not take him and the only thing they tell him is that “they are going to see him”, but in practice it remains the same. The main demand of him is unconditional freedom from him.

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