Nicaragua frees 50 opposition prisoners under amnesty law

Managua (AFP) –


Nicaragua on Monday released 50 opposition prisoners under a controversial new law granting amnesty to protesters and police involved in last year's deadly uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

The Interior Ministry announced the release of "50 people in compliance with the provisions of the Amnesty Law approved by the National Assembly" on Saturday.

Widespread opposition protests broke out in April 2018, plunging the Central American country into crisis, and a brutal crackdown by Ortega's troops over the next four months left 325 dead, 800 in prison and thousands in exile.

While the new law calls for jailed dissidents to be released "immediately," it also closes the door on investigating and punishing security forces involved in the deadly repression of the protests.

The amnesty law was rejected by a coalition of more than 70 opposition groups as well as human rights organizations because it implies that no one is responsible for the deaths.

A statement by the ministry said it was preparing the release of more prisoners. It said that those released on Monday had been held "for crimes against common security and public tranquility".

Among those released on Monday were two of four youths jailed for more than 20 years for their alleged role in the murder of a relative of a top official close to Ortega. They had spent almost a year in prison.

The governent in February began the staggered release of prisoners into house arrest ahead of talks with the opposition.

Peace talks between Ortega and opposition groups have stalled several times, notably due to Ortega's rejection of a key demand that he resign and bring forward elections slated for 2021.