RPCV Jason Puracal Is Being Held Hostage in the Nicaraguan Judicial System

U.S. Congressman Adam Smith spoke out recently against Nicaragua’s detainment of RPCV Jason Puracal since November 2010 stating, “They presented no evidence of a crime here. They have simply kidnapped and held him for a period of time and that is not in compliance with international law, it’s not even in compliance with Nicaraguan law.”

jasonpuracel

Caption: Jason Puracal with his wife Scarleth and son Jabu

Many volunteers stay on after they complete their service in the Peace Corps and decide to become permanent residents and make a life for themselves in their Country of Service.  Here is the story of one RPCV who made his home in Nicaragua who has been wrongfully imprisoned since last year on what many say are trumped up charges.

Raised in Tacoma, Washington by parents of East Indian descent, Puracal  went to the University of Washington and graduated with a double major in Zoology and Economics. He then joined the Peace Corps and came to Nicaragua in 2002 as part of the organization’s agricultural program. After leaving the Peace Corps, Puracal married a Nicaraguan woman, Scarleth, and had a son, Jabu, who’s now three years old. Puracel moved to San Juan del Sur and got involved in the real estate market, eventually becoming a partner and then majority owner of the RE/MAX Horizons franchise.

Then on November 22, 2010 Puracal was arrested, along with 11 other people, and charged with international drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime.

Puracal claims he has not committed any crimes and suspects his arrest is part of an attempted Sandinista “land grab” of properties where he has invested money in San Juan del Sur and Jinotega.

According to the evidence presented by the prosecutor December 6, the money laundering charges against Puracal appear to be based on copies of property titles he sold to foreigners and receipts of land transactions he helped facilitate. In the case file, the prosecutor notes that Puracal was involved in “national and international transactions using a great amount of money without justification to buy and sell property, especially in the departments of Rivas and Granada.”

“Imagine how absurd this case is: Practically the entire proof against Jason is based on property titles from his office and receipts of property sales to foreigners in San Juan del Sur,” says Puracal’s defense attorney Telma Vanegas. “The function of a real estate business is help others buy and sell property. But It appears that the prosecutor thinks this is a crime.”

Puracel’s sister Janis wrote in the Huffington Post in May, 2011, after Puracel had been held for six months that “the prosecution’s case grows only more hollow with time. The prosecution has alleged international drug trafficking, but has not found a single gram of illegal substances. The prosecution has, furthermore, postponed trial twice without reason, and the police have refused to transport the defendants to court for hearings, citing an empty gas tank in the police truck as reason enough.”

Jason’s case is not the first of its kind in Nicaragua. Legal expert Sergio Cuaresma recently reported on the Nicaraguan judicial system at the First Latin American Congress of Penal Law and Criminology. He found that most criminal investigations in Nicaragua violate the fundamental rights of defendants during the police investigation and judges routinely allow prosecutors to charge suspects with insufficient evidence.

Retired FBI agent Steve Moore who has reviewed the case comments, “Nothing supports the charges against Jason. On the contrary there are many irregularities that actually indicate he is being intentionally framed by authorities. The state department needs to step in before he is convicted and this escalates into the next American wrongfully-imprisoned overseas media frenzy.”

U.S. Congressman Adam Smith spoke out recently against Nicaragua’s detainment of Jason Puracal  in July 2011 stating, “They presented no evidence of a crime here. They have simply kidnapped and held him for a period of time and that is not in compliance with international law, it’s not even in compliance with Nicaraguan law.”

Despite allegations the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provided written confirmation to Congressman Smith that the DEA Country Attaché in Managua had no involvement in this investigation. According to Tolin, “The DEA’s willingness to denounce any involvement is further confirmation that Jason is innocent.”

For more information about Puracel’s case and to find out how you can help, visit www.freejasonp.com.


References:

Nica Times.  “Former Peace Corps volunteer charged as narco in Nicaragua” byTim Rogers.  December 10, 2010

Huffington Post.  “Real Life Survivor Island”  by Janis C. Puracal .  May 5, 2011

Associated Press.  “Nicaragua court postpones hearing for American real estate agent accused of money laundering”  May 14, 2011

Enhanced Online News. “FBI Agent Says New Developments Indicate American, Jason Puracal, is Being Framed in Nicaragua, Reports Tolin Law Firm”  by Chris Kingry.  July 7, 2011

Seattle Times.  “Jason Puracal, Tacoma Man Jailed in Nicaragua, Is There on Bogus Charges, Says Ex-FBI Agent” by Curtis Cartier. July 20, 2011


Photo:

Jason Puracal with his wife Scarleth and son Jabu. Courtesy of Scarleth Puracal