A rural farmer who told the judge at his trial that he can barely read and has never used a PC or a smartphone has nonetheless been jailed for cyber crimes and for spreading fake news.
The incident took place in Nicaragua, which is currently being governed by President Daniel Ortega, who has reportedly jailed dozens of opposition leaders and civilians in raids that started during his re-election campaign in November last year.
More than a dozen of president Ortega’s political opponents have reportedly been convicted by kangaroo courts and tossed in jail, according to minimalist estimates. The Argentine news site Infobae states that 170 people are currently being held in the regime’s prisons for political reasons.
And now this impoverished farmer, a semiliterate, rural peasant called Santos Camilo Bellorin, could spend the next 11 years of his life in prison after he was convicted of “propagating fake news” under the country’s cybercrime laws, specifically under Law 1042, a Special Cybercrime Law that was approved by legislators in October 2020.
This law, along with Law 1055, which is known as the “Sovereignty Law”, are reportedly the most used by the regime to imprison political opponents.
The farmer, who until recently led a simple life growing maize, beans and coffee in the rural community of Guasuyuca, which is located in the municipality of Pueblo Nuevo in the Esteli Department, was first arrested on Sunday, 7th November, in the middle of a raid that the regime reportedly organised on the eve of the general elections.
He was released two days later on 9th November. The regime had reportedly targeted him because of alleged affinities with the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC). He was then rearrested two days after that, and this time he was accused of cybercrimes against the state of Nicaragua.
State prosecutors accused him of causing “alarm, fear and anxiety” on social networks. They said that he had skills “in computer systems, information and communication technologies in cyberspace, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which he accessed through a mobile device or from one of the applications through his personal Twitter account. registered with the profile in the name of Santos Bellorin @Santos51.”
But that profile was created in April 2009, in the name of Anisio Santos. It has only five followers and has never posted a single tweet, according to Infobae.
And Bellorin, 56, was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison on Tuesday, 15th February.
This came as a surprise to his brother Francisco who said that his brother Santos “doesn’t even know computers” and does not use a smartphone, only a regular, old-fashioned mobile phone that does not have an Internet connection.
Santos Bellorin has appealed the sentence, but his family is not optimistic about the outcome of the appeal, stating that numerous others have tried and failed to fight the unfair charges brought by prosecutors working for the regime against the country’s own citizens.