The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that U.S. citizen Jason Puracal’s incarceration in Nicaragua is in violation of the law. The group is calling for his immediate release.
“Mr. Jason Zachary Puracal’s imprisonment is arbitrary… the Working Group recommends that the Republic of Nicaragua immediately order the release of this person, whether in full or on bail, if it is deemed necessary to carry out a new trial with full respect for procedural and substantial guarantees recognized in the international instruments in force in Nicaragua, and notwithstanding the ordering of reparations for the harms caused to this person,” reads the opinion of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter was sent to the Nicaraguan Government on May 24.
In a 13-page summary of the case, the UN working group, comprised of legal experts from Chile, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal and Ukraine, notes a long list of procedural errors in the arrest, trial, and sentencing of Puracal.
The 35-year-old Washington native was detained in November 2010 during a police raid without warrant, was held in jail for more than six months without being charged of any crime, was put on trial without the right to present evidence in his defense, was sentenced in August 2011 without notification, and is now being held without the right to appeal, the Working Group notes.
The Government of Nicaragua ignored the UN Working Group’s request for information.
“The Government did not issue the report requested by the Group, nor did it request an extension of the time period within the period of 60 days available according to the Group’s Methods of Work by invoking a particular reason to demonstrate its inability to respond, and as such the Group adopts its Opinion on the basis of the information provided by the source,” the document reads.
Puracal, a real estate agent in San Juan del Sur, was sentenced—along with 10 other Nicaraguans—to 22 years in jail on charges of international money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime.
His case has been backed by advocacy groups such as The California Innocence Project and Change.org, where Jason’s petition has already generated more than 87,000 supporters. In addition, Puracal’s case is being championed by former U.S. DEA director Tom Cash, who helped prosecute Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar, and Canada’s former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Irwin Cotler, who wrote a blistering letter to President Daniel Ortega calling Puracal’s “wrongful conviction” a “serious miscarriage of justice.”
The Nicaraguan government hasn’t responded to any of the international appeals.