Jason Puracal, a U.S. citizen in Nicaragua, serving 22 years in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering should be released immediately, a United Nations group has said. The group claims he was wrongly convicted and that an innocent man is currently being unjustly held in captivity.
The 34 year old American was arrested in November 2010, and was found guilty nine months later along with 10 other Nicaraguan nationals by a trial judge. Amazingly the other co-defendants testified that they did not know and had never worked with Puracal before. Even more amazingly the prosecution's own witnesses even testified that Puracal was innocent. However, he was still convicted of the crime and sentenced to 22 years.
Puracal was working as a real estate agent, and so police grew suspicious of him due to the large amounts of money he held in escrow for transactions.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has reviewed the case and has said he should be freed immediately. Their report was handed in to the Nicaraguan government at the beginning of May, but was also released publicly by Puracal's supporters at the end of May, according to Reuters.
Puracal's 33-year-old sister, Janis, told Reuters, "It's just terrifying. That place (Pracal's prison) is hell on Earth. The prison is just loud and hostile, and there's so much violence around him."
She added, "The last time I was down there, he told me he was tired of dying in prison. That's really painful to hear, when it's your big brother who is saying that."
Puracal is a United States citizen, but became a resident of Nicaragua after serving there in the Peace Corps. He is married to a Nicaraguan woman, and has a five year old son who has Down's Syndrome, who is struggling to understand where his father has disappeared to, reports have said.
Janis said, "This has been an absolute nightmare for my family. When you're sentenced to 22 years in a Nicaraguan prison, you're not going to last 22 years. That's what we're terrified of, that Jason is not going to live to get out of prison. It's been 18 months and he's already starving to death, and he's dying there."