Nicaraguan prisoners suspend hunger strike: relatives


Managua (AFP)

Eight women jailed in Nicaragua during anti-government protests last year suspended their hunger strike on Wednesday after two weeks, family members said.

The eight began their action on February 27 at the start of peace talks between President Daniel Ortega's government and the opposition alliance.

It was a protest at being used as "a bargaining chip in the process of political negotiations," Frederic Coppens, the Belgian father of one of the prisoners, said last week.

The prisoners were among more than 750 people detained for taking part in anti-government demonstrations last year during a political crisis that left 325 dead between April and October during a brutal crackdown by authorities.

The hunger strikers, including 24-year-old medical student Amaya Coppens, had insisted that "the release of all political prisoners should be a prerequisite to the start of negotiations."

Speaking on Wednesday, Coppens's mother Tamara Zamora said the women "will interrupt their hunger strike and are going to start eating a little."

However, Zamora said the move "isn't permanent, it depends on how the negotiation goes."

Human rights groups had urged the women to call off the hunger strike for the sake of their health.

Talks began last month to try to find a solution to the political crisis, after the government released dozens of prisoners -- who have since complained to local press that they face police harassment in their homes.

The peace talks have been suspended for the last three days over opposition alliance demands that other political prisoners be freed and presidential elections brought forward from 2021 in order to return to the negotiating table.

Ortega offered to reform the electoral system, liberate political prisoners awaiting trial, and revise the cases of those already condemned.