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?