MEXICO CITY — Felix Maradiaga, the wife of a Nicaraguan activist, told journalists that her husband had lost over 65 pounds in his year in prison. She was worried about his health.

The government of President Daniel Ortega brought the former presidential candidate before cameras for an unusual and unscheduled hearing to ratify the 13 year sentence he had received earlier in the year.

It was clear that Maradiaga’s family and attorneys were not invited to the event, but a pro-government news agency. This shows that the Sandista-led government intends to challenge international condemnation for its brutal crackdown on dissidents. Maradiaga appeared thin but was able to speak and walk without difficulty in images taken at the weekend.

Maradiaga hadn’t been seen in public since his June 2021 arrest. He is one of nearly 190 people considered political prisoners by human right groups, and six other individuals who could have challenged Ortega to the presidency. Maradiaga made a brief appearance in court Saturday to show that none of them had been photographed or videoed since their arrests.

Vilma Nunez (president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights) stated that the government had put on a spectacle, which was a live transmission of public torture to the people. This was done in an effort to increase fear. Herself, she is a former political prisoner during the dictatorship of AnastasioSomoza, which Ortega helped to drive out of office in 1979.

The United States of America and the European Union called for the release and condemned Ortega’s victory in November’s election as a ploy. They have placed sanctions on his family members and his inner circle. However, his government continues to make arrests and drives independent media and nongovernmental groups out of the country. This includes the nuns of Mother Teresa’s charity.

Jared Genser is a prominent U.S-based human rights lawyer who represents Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro and said Thursday in an online news conference that the political prisoner situation in Nicaragua is one of the most difficult he’s seen in his career.

Berta Valle, Maradiaga’s spouse, stated at the conference, that her husband and other family members are kept in unhealthy conditions, given poor food, and denied medical attention for chronic diseases. She said that they aren’t allowed to visit their children or given reading material.

Valle stated that his relatives believe they are causing irreversible damage to his health. She fled to the United States, and was informed of his condition by her siblings, who were sometimes able to visit him.

Nunez stated that communication is one of the most concerning aspects for the family. Nunez stated that “information limbo,” which can lead to “desperation, and anguish”, is a major problem for the family.

Valle stated that she had not seen a video of Saturday’s hearing for her husband and didn’t know about it. She also said that she didn’t know her husband had gone on a hunger strike one week prior to protesting his prison conditions.

Maradiaga was found guilty of harming the national integrity. This charge also applies to other dissidents. He denied the allegation.

After Saturday’s court appearance, Maradiaga was questioned by a reporter from an government-allied news station. He asked him why he was lying about his health. Maradiaga seemed confused by the question, and was unaware of the public debate surrounding his well-being outside prison.

He replied that he was being held in complete isolation and had been subject to a political trial.

Renata Holmann is the daughter of Juan Lorenzo Holmann who was jailed as the manager of La Prensa. Renata Holmann said that Juan Lorenzo Holmann suffered from chronic diseases and other health issues since his arrest in August last year.

She said that the dissidents in prison were being “killed little by little, every day.”

Eddy Montes, an opposition member, was killed by a prison guard in May 2019 during what the government called a riot. Hugo Torres was a former Sandinista leader and Ortega critic who was imprisoned in Managua.