(CMR) A Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to 49 years in prison in Nicaragua Friday for the rape of a 14-year-old girl.
AP reported that Judge Edén Aguilar Castro sentenced Rev. José Leonardo Urbina to 24 years in prison on two counts of abuse and 25 years for one count of rape. However, Aguilar Castro ruled that Urbina would serve only 30 years because Nicaraguan law limits maximum sentences in most cases to 30 years.
Urbina, who served as a priest at the Perpetuo Socorro parish in Boaco, was arrested in July on a complaint from the victim's mother.
The sentencing comes amid an unprecedented series of arrests and tension between the government of President Daniel Ortega and the church.
In June, a parish priest in the southern town of Nandaime was sentenced to two years in prison for supposedly assaulting a woman, but she later retracted the accusation and was accused of perjury, according to AP.
In August, Nicaraguan police raided the residence of Matagalpa Diocese Bishop Rolando Álvarez. They arrested him and several other priests who had holed up inside for two weeks after police set up a cordon.
Nicaraguan authorities had earlier accused Bishop Álvarez — an outspoken critic of Ortega's government — of “organizing violent groups” and inciting them “to carry out acts of hate against the population.”
The government had previously shut down eight radio stations and one television channel in Matagalpa province; seven of the radio stations were run by the church.
According to AP, Huge street protests across Nicaragua in 2018 called for Ortega to step down, but Ortega maintained the demonstrations were a coup attempt carried out with foreign backing and the church's support. Since then, his government has moved against voices of dissent, including locking up political opposition leaders and shuttering more than 1,000 nongovernmental organizations.
Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in elections last year after locking up his potential challenger. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on members of his government and family members.