Dual French-Nicaraguan citizens detained after being accused of spreading 'fake news'

AFP - EZEQUIEL BECERRA

Two women with dual French and Nicaraguan citizenship will be tried on charges of conspiring to undermine Nicaragua's national integrity and spreading fake news, according to a court order. This follows Nicaragua's decision to expel the EU ambassador at the weekend.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Rolando Sanarrusia admitted the charges against Jeannine Horvilleur Cuadra, 63, and her daughter Ana Alvarez Horvilleur, 43, according to a statement from the court in the capital Managua on Monday.

Both women have been detained.

Jeannine Horvilleur is the wife of opposition leader Javier Alvarez, who has fled into exile in Costa Rica.

Alvarez's wife and daughter and son-in-law have been charged along with 10 other Nicaraguan opposition figures, some for undermining national integrity, others for publishing false news and some for both counts.

The judge also issued an arrest warrant against Javier Alvarez.

The exiled opposition leader said last September from Costa Rica that he could not return to Nicaragua because his "life is in danger."

The French Foreign Ministry said in September that it was closely monitoring the situation of the two French nationals and was in contact with Nicaraguan authorities.

Preliminary hearings to set a trial date are scheduled to begin on 13 October.

The Central American country has fallen into political crisis since deadly anti-government protests in 2018, with President Daniel Ortega's leftist government facing mounting diplomatic pressure over what the United States has called a dramatic deterioration of human rights.

Dozens of political opponents, students and journalists have been jailed.

Envoy is persona non grata

The European Union has criticised Nicaragua's decision to expel its ambassador and break relations with the Netherlands, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday.

Declared persona non grata on Friday, EU ambassador Bettina Muscheidt left Nicaragua Saturday on a commercial flight to France via Mexico City.

"The EU profoundly regrets and rejects this unjustified and unilateral decision," Borrell said of the expulsion.

"These hostile, unwarranted actions" would not only effect relations between Nicaragua and EU but would lead to Managua's further international isolation, said Borrell.

The bloc will respond in a "firm and proportional manner", he added.

Managua also cut ties with the Dutch government on Friday evening, describing The Hague as "interventionist" and "neocolonialist" after its ambassador, Christine Pirenne, said her country would not fund the construction of a hospital.

Borrell also expressed the Union's "unwavering support" for the Netherlands.

US envoy rejected

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his tour of Latin American countries on Monday, with stops in Colombia, Chile and Peru.

He will attend the yearly general assembly of the Organization of American States, which is to discuss a resolution on rights abuses in Nicaragua among other issues.

Tensions rose between the countries on Friday when Nicaragua stated that the new US ambassador Hugo Rodriguez would not be granted entry due to his "interfering" attitude.

The approval of Rodriguez was reportedly withdrawn because of "disrespectful" comments he made in a hearing before the US Senate, where he referred to Nicaragua as "a pariah state in the region" and branded Ortega's government a "dictatorship."

(with newswires)