A Roman Catholic bishop was ordered by a Nicaraguan court to remain under house arrest on charges of conspiracy and spreading false news.

Government media site El 19 Digital said Tuesday that Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez had been formally charged with conspiracy and “damaging the Nicaraguan government and society," reported the Associated Press.

The Central Judicial Complex of Managua said that the charges were brought by the prosecutor's office before a judge of the Managua Criminal District Court. The judge then ordered the bishop to remain under house arrest, and scheduled the first pre-trial hearing for Jan. 10, 2023, according to UCA News.

Apart from the bishop, a warrant was also issued for a priest, the Reverend Uriel Vallejos. He has already reportedly left Nicaragua.

The move by the court is the latest episode in a crackdown on the church by President Daniel Ortega's administration, which banished the nuns from Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity religious order. The government in Nicaragua in March, threw out the papal nuncio, who is the Vatican’s top diplomat in Nicaragua.

Alvarez, who has been under house arrest since August, had been a key religious voice in discussions of Nicaragua’s future since 2018. At the time a series of demonstrations against Ortega’s government had led to a major crackdown on various opponents. Ortega’s government arrested many opposition leaders last year.

The list included seven potential presidential candidates. The ones who were arrested were sentenced to prison this year in quick trials that were closed to the public. Ortega contended that the pro-democracy demonstrations were carried out with foreign backing and the Catholic church's support.

He infuriated the Vatican in the 1980s, but later formed an alliance with the church as he moved to regain the Presidency in 2007. In 2021, the presidential election resulted in Ortega winning a fourth consecutive term, but just days before his victory, he accused the Central American nation’s Catholic bishops of drafting a political proposal in 2018. It was apparently done on behalf “of the terrorists, at the service of the Yankees," and he said that the bishops were “also terrorists.”

A few months ago, Pope Francis told followers in St. Peter’s Square that he was closely following with “worry and sorrow” events in Nicaragua that involve “persons and institutions," reported Crux.

Nicaraguans demonstrate in front of the cathedral
Nicaraguans demonstrate in front of the cathedral in neighboring Costa Rica's capital San Jose in August 2022 against the Nicaraguan government's detention of outspoken bishop Rolando Alvarez. Photo by: AFP/Ezequiel Becerra

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