Nicaragua: Five more opposition figures detained

image copyrightAFP/Getty Imagesimage captionAmong those detained on Sunday is former Sandinista Health Minister Dora Tellez

Police in Nicaragua have detained five more prominent opposition figures, in what critics say is a crackdown on opponents of Daniel Ortega.

Among those held are former comrades who fought with Mr Ortega against dictator Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s.

They had incited foreign interference in Nicaragua's affairs, police said.

This brings to 12 the number of arrested opposition figures in recent days. Among them are four presidential hopefuls in November's elections.

The police said those held on Sunday were all members the Unamos party, which is made up largely of dissidents who split from Mr Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

Among them is former Sandinista Health Minister Dora Tellez and retired General Hugo Torres.

The US earlier this month branded Mr Ortega "a dictator".

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What are they accused of?

Nearly all of those detained have been accused of plotting against Nicaragua's sovereignty and independence and of organising terrorist acts with financial help from foreign powers.

They have been held under a controversial treason law passed in December by Nicaragua's National Assembly, which is dominated by government allies.

Under the law, the government has the power to ban candidates from running for office if they are deemed to be traitors to Nicaragua. Anyone designated a traitor can be sent to prison for up to 15 years.

The government says the law aims to protect "the independence, the sovereignty and self-determination" of Nicaragua. It says the country is under threat from imperialist powers in the US and "coup-mongers" within Nicaragua who are determined to overthrow President Ortega.

But critics say the law is designed to stop opposition politicians from standing in the election.

Who is Daniel Ortega?

President Ortega, 75, is expected to seek a fourth consecutive term in November's election. But opinion polls suggest his popularity has plummeted after the violent crackdown on anti-government protests in 2018 in which hundreds of people were killed.

The US, the UK and the EU have imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, whom they accuse of undermining democracy.

Nicaragua's veteran leaderimage copyrightGetty Images and Reutersimage captionDaniel Ortega in the 1980s and in 2018

  • First took power in 1979 as the head of the leftist Sandinista rebel movement, ousting dictator Anastasio Somoza
  • Defeated in 1990 election by Violeta Chamorro after economic failures resulting from US sanctions and war against US-backed right-wing rebel groups known as Contras – then loses two more elections
  • Accused of sexual abuse by own stepdaughter in 1998
  • Re-elected in 2006 after rebranding as Christian socialist
  • Allowed to stand for re-election in 2011 and 2016 following constitutional changes, and re-elected
  • Resisted calls to step down after violent suppression of uprising in 2018

From revolutionary leader to opposition hate figure

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