4 hurt, 10 held in Nicaragua despite govt pledges: opposition


Managua (AFP)

A day after Nicaragua's government pledged to restore the right to protest, at least four people were hurt and 10 detained during a demonstration calling for the release of prisoners, the opposition said.

One of the wounded was linked to the government, said Silvia Gutierrez, of the UNAB opposition umbrella group, who provided the toll and the number of detainees.

The clash on Saturday came a day after President Daniel Ortega's government and the opposition reached an agreement to restore protest and press freedom rights while disarming paramilitaries, following a year-long political upheaval that left hundreds dead.

The injuries on Saturday occurred at a commercial center in downtown Managua, where more than 150 people had gathered ahead of a march.

Hundreds of armed riot police guarding the area forced the protesters to retreat, with struggles in which three people were detained. Seven other people were held in the capital and the western city of Leon, UNAB said.

"It is outrageous that again today in Nicaragua, police and violent civilians are attacking, detaining and injuring civilians who are demonstrating peacefully," the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, said on Twitter.

In Managua, a man inside the commercial center also shot at protesters, wounding three, the opposition said.

Police accused the protesters of disturbing public order, and in a later statement said seven were detained but later released.

The private Channel 10 Television reported that police assaulted two of its journalists who were covering the protest.

"The Ortega regime's police violated the agreement" signed on Friday, said the opposition alliance which participated in talks with the government, whose delegation is led by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada.

Those actions endangered the negotiation process "and the search for peaceful solutions," the opposition group said.

The central American country has been in crisis since April last year when a protest initially against a now-scrapped pension reform transformed into calls for Ortega's ouster.

Protesters accused him and his wife of establishing a dictatorship characterized by nepotism and brutal repression of the opposition and independent media.

Unrest left more than 300 people dead, 2,000 wounded, and sent 52,000 into exile, human rights groups say.

The Friday agreement was the first since stop-and-start talks between the government and the opposition began on February 27.

Under the deal, the government is also to respect freedom of expression.

Daily newspapers critical of the regime have been deprived of essential supplies by the authorities since September.

After a suspension, peace talks resumed on March 21 following an agreement by the government to release all opposition detainees within 90 days.