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Police in Nicaragua jail another Catholic priest

Catholics at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, on March 17.Inti Ocon / AP file

July 10 (Reuters) - Nicaraguan police detained another Catholic priest critical of the government, two sources close to the Church told Reuters on Monday, making him the latest cleric to be targeted in a deepening crackdown on clergy in the country.

Fernando Zamara, a priest who also serves in an administrative role in the northern diocese of Siuna, was arrested on Sunday in the capital Managua after assisting at a mass presided by the country's senior Catholic leader, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, according to the sources.

It was not immediately clear what charges Zamora faces. Neither the government nor the police responded to a request for comment.

Nicaragua's Catholic Church has been in the crosshairs of a five-year-long campaign by the government that has targeted priests and nuns for both arrest or expulsion, as well as a sweeping money laundering investigation announced by officials in late May that froze all church bank accounts.

The crackdown has intensified this year, with priests reporting government surveillance of services and assaults.

President Daniel Ortega has accused Catholic leaders of criminal activity, including seeking to overthrow his government.

Zamora's jailing adds to four other priests already behind bars in the Central American nation, including Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who in February was convicted and sentenced without a trial to a 26-year prison term on treason charges.

Last week, Alvarez was briefly released from prison as church representatives unsuccessfully sought to negotiate the terms of his freedom with Ortega's government.

Media outlet Confidencial also reported on Monday that another Catholic priest, Nicaraguan national Juan Carlos Sanchez, was denied entry into the country after traveling to Bolivia and the United States.

Just this year, at least seven priests have been expelled, six priests have fled the country, while three others have been denied re-entry.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Alistair Bell

© 2023 Reuters. All rights reserved


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