Nicaragua claims imprisoned bishop receives 'preferential' treatment

BUENOS AIRES (OSV News) -- The Nicaraguan government has released a series of photos and videos of imprisoned Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa -- purportedly as proof of him receiving preferential treatment -- that have sparked alarm over the prelate's emaciated appearance and indignation over his continued incarceration in one of the country's most notorious prisons.

The photos and videos show Bishop Álvarez greeting family -- his brother Manuel and sister Vilma -- during prison visits, watching TV in a visiting area full of snacks, and receiving medical attention.

Nicaragua's interior ministry published the photos and videos from 10 separate occasions between March 25, 2023, and Nov. 2, 2023, as part of a 20-page press release issued Nov. 28, according to independent Nicaraguan news organization Confidencial.

"As can be seen in the video and photographs, the conditions of confinement are preferential and the regime of medical consultations, family visits, referral and receipt of packages is strictly complied with, contrary to what slanderous campaigns would have us believe," the interior ministry said in its statement.

The bishop, 57, appeared emaciated in the photos, having dropped considerable weight, according to ecclesial colleagues on social media. The state of Bishop Álvarez's health remains unknown and long periods have lapsed without information on his health released to the media or even ecclesial sources.

"The dictatorship must not believe that with their cynical language and photos and videos of dubious authenticity they are going to justify their crime and silence us," Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez of Managua, currently exiled in Miami, said via X, formerly Twitter, on Nov. 28. "Bishop Rolando Álvarez is INNOCENT and we will continue to shout this injustice to the world. He must be released immediately without conditions!"

Father Edwin Román, a Nicaraguan priest also exiled in Miami, posted on X, "They will arrest them, they will persecute them (…) and they will imprison them (…) because of my name," citing Luke, Chapter 21.

"What helplessness, pain and indignation I feel when I see images of Msgr. Rolando in a setting staged for the photo, while his face reveals another reality," he continued.An outspoken prelate, who routinely denounced the abuses of Nicaragua's increasingly totalitarian Sandinista regime, Bishop Álvarez was detained during an August 2022 raid on the diocesan curia. The bishop had been holed up in the diocesan office for 16 days with 11 other priests and colleagues as police maintained a constant presence outside. He was convicted Feb. 10 on charges of conspiracy and spreading false information and sentenced to 26 years in prison after a closed trial in which he was denied a lawyer of his choosing. The sentence followed his refusal to be exiled to the United States with other political prisoners. He continues to rebuff attempts at exiling him, according to media reports.

- - - David Agren writes for OSV News from Mexico City. He is currently reporting from Buenos Aires.- - - NOTES: The press release with the photos and video are here: