(posted Sept. 18, 1:20 p.m.)- Nicaragua’s criminal trial of the 18 alleged “narco journalists” from Mexico will begin on Dec. 3, according to judge Julio César Arias, who presided over the pretrial hearing this morning in Managua.
All 18 Mexicans, who were arrested Aug. 19 as they entered Nicaragua aboard six vans painted as Televisa media vehicles, will be charged with international drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime. Police found $9.2 million in cash hidden aboard the vans, three of which apparently were registered in Mexico in the name of Televisa.
The Mexican media network denies any connection to the phony journalists or the vans.
One of the defense attorneys reportedly argued this morning that the prosecutor’s office has not presented sufficient evidence against the accused, but the judge ignored the plea.
The 18 Mexicans will be held under preventive prison arrest until their trial begins in two weeks.
President Daniel Ortega, meanwhile, has already ordered by presidential fiat that the money confiscated from the alleged drug traffickers will go to remodeling and modernizing Nicaragua’s prison system. The president’s arbitrary decision to give the money away before the trial even begins would seem to violate the presumption of innocence, due process and a Nicaraguan law that stipulates that money confiscated in the drug war should pass to the Ministry of Finance and be used to close the budget deficit.