Congressman Smith (WA-09) made the following statement regarding the letter sent to President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua asking for improved detainee conditions and an independent investigation of Jason Puracal's case:
"Jason Puracal, an American citizen, is being held in a Nicaraguan prison in deplorable conditions. He shares a cell with eight other men where there is no running water and a hole in the ground serves as a sink, shower, dishwashing area, and disturbingly, a toilet.
"After nearly 9 months of being detained and a drawn out trial, Mr. Puracal was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison. From information I've received from his lawyers, Mr. Puracal's conviction was based on a trial that was clearly flawed and conducted in what the State Department has referred to as a corrupt Nicaraguan judicial system. Tellingly, the California Innocence Project has adopted his case -- they pick just ten each year -- and conclude "there is strong evidence of factual innocence."
"Given these circumstances, I am urging President Ortega to immediately provide Mr. Puracal improved detention conditions and I'm asking him to request his prosecutors conduct an independent review of Mr. Puracal's case as it is currently on appeal. Based on the assessment we have received from Mr. Puracal's legal team and independent international legal experts that have reviewed the case, there is a compelling need for a thorough and objective prosecutorial review of Mr. Puracal's case to determine his innocence under Nicaraguan law.
"The manner in which Mr. Puracal's case has been handled is incredibly unsettling. My hope is that this letter and our efforts will lead to a thorough independent investigation and will ensure the conditions under which Mr. Puracal is currently being held are improved to come into full accordance with standards set by international law."