According to her family, Nicaraguan opposition figure Cristiana Chamorro has been arrested at home on money laundering charges after police raided her home.
The move against the 67-year-old journalist, seen as a possible challenger to President Daniel Ortega in the November election, came on Wednesday. Ortega, although he has not confirmed whether he will seek a fourth term.
Police assaulted Chamorro’s home in the capital, Managua, and after being in situ for more than five hours, was placed “under house arrest, in solitary confinement,” her brother Carlos Fernando Chamorro said on Twitter.
“The majority of the opposition believes that this is a way to try to eliminate all the most prominent opposition leaders, before this year’s presidential election,” Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman reported from Santiago, Chile. , after the police raid.
“She would be the third … presidential candidate to be jailed,” Newman said, adding that “two of the opposition parties have been outlawed.”
A Managua court said earlier that he had ordered his arrest on charges of “mismanagement, ideological falsehood” and “money laundering, property and property, to the detriment of the state and Nicaraguan society.”
According to press reports, police forcefully kept Chamorro’s friends and family, as well as journalists, out of the place.
On Tuesday, prosecutors had charged Chamorro with a series of crimes and had asked him to ban public office as he faces criminal charges.
Legal experts have denounced an “illegal” procedure, as the electoral council has not issued any decision on its eligibility.
The allegations stem from Chamorro’s role as head of a foundation for press freedom, and prosecutors allege accounting “inconsistencies”.
Chamorro left the foundation in February and refused to comply with a new law that requires anyone receiving money from abroad to declare himself in government as a “foreign agent.”
The prosecution opened an investigation against her on May 20 at the request of the government.
He has dismissed the allegations against her as a “farce” intended to prevent her from appearing in the November poll, which Ortega is expected to be able to answer.
Chamorro, who does not belong to any political party, announced on Tuesday that he would run for opposition.
Shortly before police entered Chamorro’s home on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the Ortega government’s moves against Chamorro and said the Central American country deserved “real democracy.”
“The arbitrary ban of the opposition leader @chamorrocris reflects Ortega’s fear of free and fair elections. Nicaraguans deserve real democracy, “Blinken tweeted during a visit to Latin America.
The Organization of American States, for its part, warned that Nicaragua “was heading for the worst possible elections.”
He added in a statement: “This process of systematic and repeated violations of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms delegitimizes the electoral process even before it takes place.”
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights denounced a “violation of human rights.”
Opposition parties in a joint statement accused Ortega of “launching a witch hunt” against the candidates because he “fears going to a free, transparent and observed election.”
Last month, the Nicaraguan legislature appointed a majority of magistrates aligned with the ruling party for the electoral body that will oversee the November elections.
He has since disqualified two parties.
In December, the legislature passed a law that critics say aims to prevent opposition politicians from running in elections.
Sponsored by Ortega, it prohibits “those who demand, celebrate and applaud the imposition of sanctions against the Nicaraguan state.”
Ortega, a former rebel who ruled from 1979 to 1990, returned to power in 2007 and won two successive re-elections.
Since 2018, the 75-year-old leader has faced a political crisis triggered by huge protests against his government’s policies.
Demonstrations have left 328 dead and thousands exiled, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Ortega blamed a failed Washington-backed coup attempt.