Costa Rica Arrests Nicaraguan Journalists

October 21, 2005

THREE Nicaraguan journalists were detained by Costa Rican police and expelled from the country Monday after filming the home of Costa Rican police officer Diego Ortíz, in Nicaraguan custody and charged with the kidnapping of a Nicaraguan police officer, according to the daily Al Día. Ortíz was arrested Sept. 1, allegedly on Nicaraguan soil, in the midst of heightened tensions and security along the San Juan River, which separates Costa Rica from Nicaragua. Costa Rica prompted a series of reactions from Nicaragua when it decided to turn to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to resolve a long-standing dispute over Costa Rica’s navigation rights on the river (TT, Oct. 7).The Nicaraguan journalists claim they carried their passports, had visas from the Costa Rican consulate in Nicaragua to enter the country, and received permission from a Costa Rican police official, though Costa Rican authorities maintain that the journalists entered the country illegally by way of an unauthorized post.A Nicaraguan judge ruled Oct. 12 that there was not enough evidence to take Ortíz to trial, but by law the prosecutor had five days to provide new evidence (TT, Oct. 14). In a second hearing held Tuesday with a new prosecutor and new defense attorney, the testimony of nine new witnesses convinced the judge to reverse the previous ruling, and Ortíz will face trial beginning Nov. 24, Al Día reported.Ortíz’s family claims his innocence. According to the Costa Rican Public Security Ministry, the Nicaraguan police officer Ortíz is accused of kidnapping was, in fact, arrested in Costa Rica by Costa Rican police in June. His alleged crime: detaining two Costa Ricans illegally in their own country and transporting them to Nicaragua, where they were jailed for various days.

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