New York, March 24, 2022 – Nicaraguan authorities should release publisher Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro from prison immediately, and should ensure that members of the press do not face criminal penalties for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Wednesday, March 23, at the end of a three-day closed-door trial, a judge in a Managua court found Holmann, the publisher of Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, guilty of money laundering, according to La Prensa and other news reports.
Holmann maintained his innocence throughout the trial, those reports said. CPJ could not immediately determine whether he planned to file an appeal.
Judge Nadia Camila Tardencilla Rodríguez is expected to issue a sentence on March 31, Holmann’s wife Chrystal Munguía told La Prensa, saying that prosecutors are seeking a prison term of nine years and four months and a fine.
“The conviction of Juan Lorenzo Holmann is the latest step in the Nicaraguan government’s relentless campaign to stifle free expression and portray independent journalism as nothing short of criminal activity,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator. “Nicaraguan authorities must put an end to these transparently absurd criminal proceedings and release Holmann immediately.”
Police raided La Prensa’s office in Managua on August 13, 2021, as part of an investigation into alleged customs fraud; the following morning, officers brought Holmann to El Chipote prison, purportedly to sign some papers related to that investigation, but instead detained him, as CPJ documented. He has been held in pretrial detention ever since.
Holmann is also secretary of La Prensa’s board of directors and a member of the Chamorro family, which owns the newspaper; he was appointed publisher after his uncle Jaime Chamorro Cardenal died on July 29, 2021, according to news reports.
Earlier this week, a Nicaraguan court handed down an eight-year sentence to Holmann’s cousin, Cristiana Chamorro, a former presidential candidate and head of a now-shuttered free expression organization, for money laundering and other criminal charges, according to reports.