Nicaragua now wants me to defend myself after they have deported me from the country. I have filed a legal response to the Nicaraguan prosecutor’s latest attempt to smear my name, lock me up in a sub-human prison, and leave me to die for crimes I did not commit.
The two-year crusade against me seemingly ended last month, when an appeals court set me free and I came home to the United States. Soon after, though, I found out the prosecutor has refused to let me go. The prosecutor is abusing his authority in an attempt to take me from Seattle and put me back in prison in Nicaragua.
Along with my formal response to the Supreme Court in Nicaragua, I will soon be filing a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which will join the United Nations and others in the international community in reviewing Nicaragua’s actions in my case.
It all started in September 2002, when I went to Nicaragua as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was extremely excited for the adventure. The work I would be doing in agriculture and economic sustainability was a unique chance to travel and help others less fortunate than me. I spent my time in the mountains working with local farmers and their families to help educate them on the latest techniques in sustainable, organic agriculture to help them live healthier lives.
It was then that I fell in love with Nicaragua—the natural beauty, the culture, and, more than anything, the people. A few months after my Peace Corps service ended, I drove back to Nicaragua on my own to try my hand at real estate development. I married a Nicaraguan beauty, and together we had a son. Our family was content and I loved living in Nicaragua.
After several years of hard work, I was lucky enough to become one of the most successful real estate brokers along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. My established reputation allowed me to partner with several other like-minded individuals to start larger sustainable, organic farm projects with an emphasis on community development. I was able to spend quality time with my family and felt I had really integrated with the local community, all the while enjoying the benefits of living in tropical paradise.
On Nov. 11, 2010, my life changed radically. I will never forget the day when my office in front of the beach was stormed by masked men armed with assault rifles. Even though the Nicaragua police ransacked my office and home—confiscating whatever they desired—they never told me what they were looking for, why I was being detained, or allowed me to communicate with my family or attorney. From that day forward my life became a living nightmare played in slow motion as in accordance with Nicaragua’s “mañana” attitude.
Eventually, I was charged with three very serious crimes, all of which I am completely innocent. Every step of the way, since the moment the police entered my office, my civil, constitutional, and human rights have been violated. Physical and verbal abuse; lack of due process; lack of legal, judicial, and evidentiary foundations; denial of food and water for days at a time; denial of medical treatment; a biased judge who was not even a legal judge—it all amounted to my wrongful imprisonment for 22 months. Twenty-two months during which I was separated from my wife and son. Twenty-two months in which my family struggled and exhausted every resource possible fighting for my freedom. Twenty-two months of pure suffering.
And even now, after I have been released from prison and deported from Nicaragua, the suffering continues. The Nicaraguan prosecution continues to defy all logic and has appealed my release. They are insisting that I am guilty of crimes I did not commit, even though they do not have one piece of evidence against me. For the charge of drug trafficking, there is not even one gram of drugs in the entire case. For the charge of money laundering, the prosecutor’s financial expert testified on the stand that no money changed hands between me or my company and the other 10 men accused in the case. He also testified that, of the 295 copies of deeds that were found in my real estate office, none were in my name, my company’s name, or in the names of the 10 codefendants. And for the charge of organized crime, each of the other 10 defendants confirmed they had never met me before the arrest. Not one material witness, video, photo, or phone call was presented to show that I had anything to do with the others accused.
Sadly, my experience isn’t unique. There are thousands of Americans jailed abroad, the majority are in Latin America. There are hundreds of innocent people in the prison system in Nicaragua, both Nicaraguans and foreigners, even other American citizens. The need for legal reform and protections for people like me has never been greater. I am hoping that my petition in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will give me the platform to bring resources to Nicaragua from the international community to help others enduring the same injustices I lived through.
In the meantime, I will be studying Sustainable Business at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Seattle starting in January 2013. I also am looking for a job in sustainable development to implement the experiences I gained in Nicaragua in the Pacific Northwest. My sister, Janis, and I have been keeping busy by sharing our story at law schools around the country to raise awareness of the need for legal reform in Nicaragua. My son, Jabu, recently had his first day of kindergarten and my wife, Scarleth, has started her ESL classes in hopes of being able to attend a graduate law program here to further her studies in International Criminal Law and Human Rights.
Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and the website FreeJasonP.com as we start our lives over from zero, but our hearts filled with love and hope.