Juan Lorenzo Holmann, the publisher of the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, is serving a nine-year prison sentence on money laundering charges. Police arrested Holmann on August 14, 2021, after raiding La Prensa’s newsroom, and he was held in pretrial detention for almost eight months before his conviction.
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 in July 2021.
Police raided La Prensa’s office 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, according to a report by the newspaper.
Later that day, the Nicaraguan police published a statement saying Holmann was accused of customs fraud and money laundering.
La Prensa’s Editor-in-Chief Eduardo Enríquez told CPJ at the time that he believed Holmann’s arrest was an attempt to silence the lone remaining independent national print newspaper in Nicaragua ahead of the country’s November 7, 2021, elections. Holmann’s arrest came amid a widespread crackdown on independent media leading up to last year’s vote.
Enríquez told CPJ that the outlet’s staff believe the charges against Holmann are part of a government campaign of retaliation against La Prensa for its critical reporting.
“Juan Lorenzo is not and has never been a political activist, much less a criminal. His participation in La Prensa has been solely as a member of the Board of Directors and, in recent months, as the outlet’s publisher,” Enríquez said via messaging app.
Enríquez told CPJ that Holmann has heart problems and that he had heart surgery in March 2021.
On March 23, 2022, a Managua court found Holmann guilty of money laundering at the end of a three-day closed-door trial, 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.
Earlier that 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.
On March 31, a judge sentenced Holmann to nine years in prison and a fine equivalent to three times the amount that Holmann had allegedly laundered, although the exact amount was not specified, according to news reports. The judge also ordered that the newspaper’s printing presses and facilities remain closed.
On August 31, Holmann appeared before the Managua Appeals Court as part of a series of “informational audiences” that Nicaraguan officials held between August 30 and September 1 for some political prisoners, according to a report by Nicaraguan news website Confidencial. Officials only granted press access to official state-affiliated media outlets, which shared photos and videos of political prisoners, including Holmann, according to that report.
Holmann is imprisoned in Managua in the "Evaristo Vásquez" detention center, known as the “El Chipote” prison.
The Holmann family has repeatedly expressed concern about Holmann’s health in detention, including dramatic weight loss, lack of access to sunlight, and deteriorating eyesight. During a visit in October 2021, Holmann told his wife, Chrystal Munguía, that he had fainted once in detention and had experienced repeated chest pains, according to reports. Officials have failed to comply with requirements to provide Holmann with access to regular medical checks for conditions including an untreated dark spot on one eye and follow-up from the heart surgery performed before he was imprisoned, according to those reports.
In the photos released by state media outlets on August 31, 2022, Holmann appears thin and pale.
CPJ emailed the Nicaraguan National Police and the prosecutor’s office in September 2022 but did not receive any responses.