Nicaragua starts legal crackdown on Ortega opponents ahead of election

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Nicaraguan authorities on Friday said they would prosecute three arrested presidential hopefuls for treason, a day after they said top presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro would be prosecuted for money laundering.

The court announcement comes 66 days ahead of Nicaragua's presidential election in which President Daniel Ortega will seek a fourth term in office.

The court judges also ruled that the three opposition figures -- Felix Maradiaga, Arturo Cruz and Juan Sebastian Chamorro -- will remain under preventive detention. No date has been set for the trial.

Cristina Chamorro, 67, has been under house arrest since June 2 after prosecutors launched a probe into the laundering of goods and assets through a foundation she ran for 20 years. Her mother is former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

The Friday announcement came during the second day of hearings against 34 jailed regime opponents, including the three presidential hopefuls.

Six other opposition figures will also be prosecuted, including business leader Jose Aguerri, three former Sandinista guerrilla leaders and Ortega colleagues, an environmental and rights activist, and a pro-democracy activist.

The hearing was held at a police jail known as "El Chipote." Relatives and media were not allowed to follow the proceedings.

Ortega, 75, claims the United States is supporting his political opponents in an attempt to oust him from power.

In early June, police arrested a slew of government critics on charges that included "undermining the national sovereignty" and "inciting foreign intervention."

Ortega was the Central American country's leader from 1979 to 1990, then returned to power in 2007.

(AFP)

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