In Nicaragua, twenty-four former members of the disbanded national guard went on trial on Monday (17 December).
In Nicaragua, twenty-four former members of the disbanded national guard went on trial on Monday (17 December). They were accused of committing crimes against the people under the regime of the ousted President Anastasio Somoza, whose family ruled the Central American country for forty-five years.
SYNOPSIS: The trials are being held in the capital of Managua.
A defendant gives his testimony, with a typist taking down a deposition. Altogether, some seven thousand people are to be tried by special courts appointed by the government to deal with crimes committed before Somoza was overthrown in a civil war last July.
Earlier this month, after pressure from the Church in Nicaragua, the government passed a decree setting up nine emergency people's tribunals to try the prisoners. Thirty-six tribunal members, sworn in on December the thirteenth, were chosen, a member of the ruling junta said, for their honesty and civic responsibility. Those serving on the tribunals are housewives, cattlemen, taxi drivers and farmers, acting under the guidance of a lawyer or student. The junta says the trials will be impartial because they see no need for revenge in Nicaragua. They welcomed the presence of international observers and newsmen, who would see the laws of regular courts being applied.
The trials are expected to last at least six months. Nicaragua has no death penalty, so the maximum penalty the defendants face is thirty years in jail.
The noted Nicaraguan lawyer, Nora Astorga, is taking part in the proceedings. Each defendant appears once before a tribunal of three persons. Charges are read, and the defendant has a chance to plead.
After that, a lawyer is named to prepare the defendant's case in writing, while the government also submits its case in writing. The tribunals must act within twenty-eight days. Agency reports said that state prosecutors asked on Tuesday (18 December) for two of the first three prisoners standing trial to be given maximum thirty-year sentence. The state accused the two civilian defendants of being assassins for a para-military group. Prosecutors said the third man should get thirteen years for complicity in killing a Nicaraguan composer.