Hundreds arrested in Nicaragua crackdown: rights groups

Managua (AFP) –


Nicaraguan authorities have "arbitrarily" arrested hundreds of people in a continuing crackdown on a wave of opposition calling for President Daniel Ortega's ouster, rights groups said Monday.

Many of the detainees were seized on suspicion of taking part in marches against Ortega's government, or providing aid to those agitating against the president, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said.

The rights group said 292 people had been killed in three months of protests and repression by police and paramilitaries using firearms, raising a previous toll.

The center said it did not have a figure for those detained because the numbers kept shifting between those held for maybe a day or two, some released after a period, and yet others apprehended.

Another group, the Permanent Commission for Human Rights, said it has received reports from relatives of 150 people arrested and another similar number said to be held against their will.

The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, meanwhile, said it had received reports of some 700 people detained.

Managua's auxiliary bishop, Silvio Baez, said: "We implore, in the name of God, that this hunting of young people cease... It is not possible to criminalize people for protesting and to treat them like terrorists."

Those detained could risk prosecution under a new law that provides sentences of 15 to 20 years in prison for crimes deemed to amount to "terrorism." Detractors say they fear it will be applied to anti-government protesters.