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Nicaragua sentences Catholic bishop to 26 years in prison

Protest against the detention of Nicaraguan bishop and regime critic Bishop Rolando Alvarez.
AFP via Getty Images
Protest against the detention of Nicaraguan bishop and regime critic Bishop Rolando Alvarez.

Updated February 10, 2023 at 7:03 PM ET

MEXICO CITY — A day after banishing most of its political prisoners to the United States, Nicaragua has sentenced a Catholic bishop to 26 years in prison.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez refused to leave with the rest of the 222 political prisoners flown to the U.S. on Thursday.

According to media reports, he stopped at the stairs leading to the airplane and said, "Let the others be free. I will endure their punishment."

Álvarez was arrested for opposing the government of President Daniel Ortega and his trial was set for next week. The bishop has called for free elections.

Instead, a judge appeared on state television and said the priest had been declared a traitor, and sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

Álvarez was best known for confronting security forces that surrounded his parish in the town of Matagalpa. "Frightened and on my knees, only before God," he told them.

This story originally appeared in NPR's Newscast.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.