Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro

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Juan Lorenzo Holmann, the publisher of the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, is being held in pretrial detention for alleged money laundering and customs fraud. Police arrested Holmann on August 14, 2021, after raiding La Prensa’s newsroom. He is being held without access to his lawyers.

Holmann is also secretary of La Prensa’s board of directors and part of the Chamorro family, which owns the newspaper; he was appointed publisher after his uncle Jaime Chamorro Cardenal died on July 29, according to news reports

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 on August 14, the Nicaraguan police published a statement saying Holmann was accused of customs fraud and money laundering. 

La Prensa editor-in-chief Eduardo Enríquez told CPJ via messaging app that Holmann remained at El Chipote prison and had been unable to meet with his lawyers.

According to Enríquez, 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. His arrest came amid a widespread crackdown on independent media throughout the summer and leading up to national elections in November, according to news reports and CPJ research.

A preliminary hearing held in El Chipote Prison on September 22, the Nicaraguan attorney general’s office charged Holmann with customs fraud and money laundering, according to news reports and a press statement released by the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s office.

According to Enríquez, the authorities did not allow Holmann’s lawyers or family access to the hearing, and he said that Holmann’s lawyers did not know whether he pleaded innocent or guilty. No subsequent court date was set at that hearing, according to a report by La Prensa

Under the Nicaraguan criminal code, Holmann could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of money laundering and customs fraud.

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. 

Holmann’s wife, Chrystal Munguía, visited him in detention on September 1 and October 13, according to news reports. During those visits, Holmann appeared skinny and pale, and had a dark spot in his right eye that Munguía feared could lead to a loss of sight if left untreated. Holmann told his wife that he had fainted once in detention and had repeated chest pains, those reports said. 

His mother Ana María Chamorro visited him on November 17, according to a report by La Prensa. She said he had been to a new cell with other political prisoners but that he still did not receive enough sunlight or food. 

Enríquez told CPJ that Holmann has heart problems and that he had heart surgery in March 2021. 

CPJ emailed the Nicaraguan National Police and called the prosecutor’s office in September and October 2021, but did not receive any responses.