MANAGUA – One-time Nicaragua presidential aspirant Cristiana Chamorro and one of her brothers were among five people formally charged with money laundering Thursday, prosecutors announced.
In a statement, prosecutors said Chamorro, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro and three former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation will be tried for money laundering and other alleged crimes.
Cristiana Chamorro has been under house arrest since June 2. Her arrest was one of the first of a wave of detentions against opposition leaders, including seven potential presidential candidates. President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office Nov. 7.
Chamorro has maintained her innocence. She is the daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
To clear the path toward re-election, Ortega's government has moved against a number of nongovernmental organizations it views as opposition. The president has claimed that organizations receiving funding from abroad were part of a broader conspiracy to remove him from office in 2018.
Following the arrest of Chamorro and other former foundation employees, the U.S. State Department said in a statement, “Their detention on trumped up charges is an abuse of their rights, and it represents an assault on democratic values as well as a clear attempt to thwart free and fair elections."
In January, she stepped down from her role at the foundation. A month later, it closed its operations in Nicaragua after passage of a “foreign agents” law designed to track foreign funding of organizations operating in the country.
The nongovernmental Nicaraguan Human Rights Center said Thursday the hearing took place at the Managua prison where many political prisoners are being held. There was no access for family members or the public.
Prosecutors said Thursday that five other accused in the case, including another Chamorro brother, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, are fugitives in the case.