MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The director of a TV station critical of President Daniel Ortega was accused Saturday of inciting terrorism after authorities raided and shut down the station's offices in their latest salvo against independent media and nongovernmental organizations.
Miguel Mora's wife, Veronica Chavez, who is also a journalist, accused police at a news conference of carrying out a "kidnapping" of her husband "on orders of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and (first lady and Vice President) Rosario Murillo."
Mora, of the 100% Noticias channel, appeared in court in the morning wearing a blue prisoner's uniform and was formally accused of "provocation, proposition and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts," according to a court document.
The document alleged that Mora, through his channel, incited hate with messages and "false news" that purportedly provoked people to violent acts in protests this year demanding Ortega's exit from office.
Mora was arrested in a police raid Friday night in which agents also took control equipment from the station. The channel went off the air, and the national broadcast regulator issued a statement banning cable operators from carrying its signal.
"They had everything planned," Chavez said. "They waited until Miguel ended his IV Poder program and began to surround the station. Then they entered in force as if they were after a dangerous criminal, they pointed guns at us and they took him away."
Chavez said she and four others were also arrested, and she was the only one to be freed three hours later. 100% Noticias station had previously been forced off the air for over 10 days in April before being allowed to resume broadcasting.
At least 325 people were killed in the protests, and the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights says some 565 people have been jailed. Thousands more have fled the country in self-imposed exile.
Ortega, 73, alleges that the protests were part of a coup plan to topple him. Opponents accuse him of increasing authoritarianism; of ordering the deadly protest crackdown by police and armed, pro-Ortega civilian groups; and of harshly persecuting government opponents.
While the demonstrations dissipated following the tough response, recent days have been tense ones for the Central American nation as the government targeted opposition voices despite criticism from abroad.
On Dec. 14 police seized the offices of four NGOs — including the Center for Human Rights — and the newspaper Confidencial.
Then this past Wednesday, Ortega's government expelled two Organization of American States-sponsored groups of experts who were investigating and monitoring alleged human rights abuses by security forces during the protests, a day before they were to release a report critical of the government.
On Friday in Washington, those experts urged the international community to act on Nicaragua.
"The other nations of the planet can intervene and judge," Argentine expert Pablo Parenti said, citing what he called "crimes against humanity for murder, incarceration and persecution. They are crimes that do not prescribe nor can receive amnesty."
Also Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill cutting off resources to Ortega's government and putting sanctions against countries that assist Nicaragua.