American Fights for Freedom in Nicaragua

Imagine being locked up in a foreign prison cell for crimes you did not commit. This is the reality of Jason Puracal, a 35 year-old, Washington native who has been in a Nicaraguan prison for nearly two years for crimes he says he did not commit. He was arrested in November of 2010 and sentenced on August 29, 2011 to 22 years in prison for drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime along with 10 Nicaraguans. His appeal was finally heard on August 16, 2012 but the decision could take weeks until it is reached.

Many human rights activists and United States lawmakers have taken an interest in Puracal’s case because of how poorly Nicaragua has handled his case and his treatment in prison. Members of Congress have written their support for Puracal’s appeal to be heard and have raised questions about the presiding judge who apparently does not meet the Nicaraguan qualifications to even serve as a judge. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has reviewed Puracal’s case and found that he was arrested without a warrant, held for more than six months without being charged, put on trial without the right to present evidence in his defense and sentenced without notification. All of these actions are illegal under Nicaraguan law. Puracal has also been suffering in a dirty prison cell where he fights for water. Before a date was set for Puracal’s appeal, he had lost a drastic amount of weight due to illness and lack of food and was put on suicide watch. This caused an even bigger push by his family and other supporters to urge the Nicaraguan Government to hear Puracal’s appeal.

Puracal moved to Nicaragua after serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. He is married to a Nicaraguan woman and they have a son. Puracal also owns a real estate business in the city of San Juan del Sur.

This must be a nightmare for Puracal and his family. Should anything be done to the Nicaraguan Government about its treatment of Puracal’s case? Do you think the United States has done enough or should even do anything in trying to help Jason Puracal?

Sources: The Global Post , Reuters and CNN


  1. It is sad to hear about situations like this but it is very common all over the world. While being stationed in Bolivia I saw a similar case and it was disgusting how he was treated. Not just him but all prisoners, there is no way anyone should live in such foul conditions. I saw worse in Nigeria. It is funny to hear Americans claim how corrupt our justice system is, they truly do not know corruption until living in a third world country. Great article!

  2. I am surprised that nothing has been done about the Nicaraguan Government’s treatment of its prisoners. The fact that Puracal was arrested, without a warrant, held for more than six months without being charged, put on trial without the right to present evidence in his defense and sentenced without notification should call for a total uproar in their justice system. I would believe that its own people would be more outraged than we are, considering all the prisoners are held in the same inhumane conditions. I do think that the United States should be doing more, considering he is one of our own. If even one of those things had happened here, Americans would never let the judicial system get away with such an injustice. I could not imagine sitting in a United States prison for a crime I did not commit, so it seems to be absolutely unbearable what Puracal is going through. I hope his appeal turns out well.

  3. I agree with the above comment. It truly is terrible to hear about cases like this and to know that governments can treat people with such disrespect and disregard for their rights. That being said, I feel the need to play “devil’s advocate” and offer the opinion that most people convicted of a crime claim they did not do it. If Puracal did commit the crime, then he deserves to be in jail. The Nicaraguan government may have gone about arresting and convicting him in an illegal and perhaps immoral way, but nonetheless, if he did something wrong, he wound up where he belongs. However, in light of the apparently illegal manner in which the government proceeded, the United States’ actions in pushing for the appeal were appropriate and it is good to know that the Nicaraguans finally allowed the appeal to take place. Hopefully they will take the appellate proceedings seriously and critically look at the facts of the case to make a fair and just determination of Puracal’s guilt or innocence. The most troubling aspect of this case, aside from the inhuman living conditions in the prison, is that the Judge presiding over the original trial was not even qualified to do so. How can that be allowed to happen?

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