Managua, Nicaragua -- Today marks exactly one year since the Nicaraguan police arrested my brother, Jason Puracal, without any evidence of a crime.
At the time of his arrest, Jason was living in San Juan Del Sur. He was a real estate broker and he, along with three other Americans, owned a small REMAX franchise in San Juan.
Jason was arrested by the Nicaraguan national police on November 11, 2010. He has been wrongfully imprisoned and subject to inhumane treatment and abuse since that day, all without evidence of a crime.
Without even a search warrant, the Nicaraguan police came to Jason's office wearing masks and carrying assault rifles. The police ransacked Jason's office and confiscated his computers, his phones, and all of his files. They searched Jason, found nothing, but handcuffed him and threw him in the back of a van. They then went to Jason's house, again wearing masks and carrying the same assault rifles. They forced their way in and searched the entire house where our 65-year-old mother was visiting and Jason's three-year-old son was sleeping. The police held my mother and my nephew captive in Jason's house for hours and refused to provide any explanation or tell them what they were looking for.
Jason was one of eleven people, none of whom he knew, taken to La Modelo, the maximum security prison outside Managua. Jason was beaten while in transit and denied food, water, and access to his attorney. Jason has been forcibly injected with medication, refused access to his inhaler, and denied medical care. Prison guards have even threatened him with forced surgery against his will. He has lost over 30 pounds and suffered from inflammation and infections brought on by prison conditions. At one point, Jason was so sick from inflammation that he could barely walk. The prison guard told him to go back to his cell and die.
I am terrified for Jason's health and safety.
I am terrified that he going to die in that prison before someone will recognize what the police have done to him.
Jason has not been allowed bail and remains imprisoned since the day he was illegally taken into custody.
After nine months of delay, Jason was finally brought to trial. We believed the judge would recognize the mistake of the police and prosecution and would let Jason go free. Instead, the judge convicted Jason without evidence and sentenced him to 22 years in prison.
During the trial, the judge denied Jason the right to present a defense. He ruled key defense witnesses "irrelevant" and refused to allow them to testify. It was, however, the prosecution's own witnesses at trial who proved Jason's innocence.
The prosecution alleged international drug trafficking, yet did not present a single gram of drugs at trial. The prosecution also alleged money laundering, yet did not introduce a single bank record of Jason's into evidence. The prosecution's own financial expert testified that no money ever changed hands between Jason and the other ten defendants. The judge would not allow Jason to present evidence showing that the money claimed illegal was actually money in escrow belonging to REMAX clients who were buying properties. The prosecution refused to even interview those clients, and the prosecution's expert testified that he did not understand how an escrow account works.
My brother is wasting away in prison because of an overzealous police force and a prosecutor who did not understand that it was his job to prevent the conviction of an innocent man. The prosecutor admitted in open court that he did not investigate this case; it was only the police that were behind it.
We have now filed our appeal of the conviction, and we are counting on the Nicaraguan appellate courts to make this right. The trial judge, however, is delaying the appeal and attempting to deny Jason the rights to appellate review altogether.
We saw Jason yesterday for the first time in a year. He was skinny, his eyes were sunken in, and he was badly scarred from infections and the burn injury he suffered in prison while trying to boil water to make it drinkable. It was so painful to see him like that. If any of you have a brother, you can imagine how heartbreaking it is to see your family hurt and suffering.
My brother was a model citizen. He was a loving husband and father to his Nicaraguan wife and four year old son, Jabu.
We are here today because we need help. My brother needs your help.