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Nicaragua releases 2,800 prisoners to house arrest to contain virus

Nicaragua has reported only 16 coronavirus cases and five deaths, but civil society groups claim the number is much higher
Nicaragua has reported only 16 coronavirus cases and five deaths, but civil society groups claim the number is much higher INTI OCON AFP/File
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Managua (AFP)

Nicaragua released more than 2,800 prisoners to house arrest on Wednesday to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but advocates said there were no political prisoners among them.

Authorities have jailed at least 86 opposition figures and supporters of rights groups under the government of Daniel Ortega -- a former rebel hero who has been in power since 2007 and is now accused of running a repressive dictatorship.

Many of those prisoners were arrested during 2018 protests against Ortega that rights groups said left 300 people dead.

But none of them were among the 2,815 prisoners the interior ministry said had been released from Nicaragua's prisons, defense lawyer Yonarki Martinez told AFP.

"It's obvious that there's no respect for human rights and the health of those denied their freedom," Martinez said.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for the "immediate liberation" of the country's political prisoners.

Martinez said some of those opposition figures were had symptoms of COVID-19, including fever and breathing difficulties, but had not received medical attention.

Last week, Amnesty International complained that 12 opposition detainees were showing symptoms but were not receiving medical attention.

Authorities have told the International Red Cross that they have not confirmed any COVID-19 cases in prisons.

According to official data, Nicaragua has recorded only 16 coronavirus cases and five deaths.

But civil society groups say there have been at least 780 suspected cases that have been treated or recorded as pneumonia. The government denies the claims.

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