Nicaragua police raid opposition paper, end rights groups' permits

Managua (AFP) - Nicaraguan police have raided the offices of an opposition daily and then stripped human rights and activist groups' permission to operate, those targeted said Saturday.

Nine police officers armed with rifles entered the offices late Friday and started pushing people, beating others and making fun of reporters after journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro challenged them to take on his media outlet without a search warrant in his online daily Confidencial and news broadcasts Esta Semana and Esta Noche, he said.

What you are doing "is just de facto. If you have the order, I ask you to show it," Chamorro said from the street to the agent who barred him and other colleagues from entering the offices.

"Police did not show any order at all... so this is an armed assault on private property, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and free enterprise," he later told reporters.

Confidencial's front door was sealed with tape following the raid. Police seized work equipment and documents.

Chamorro went to the police headquarters to demand the return of equipment, noting that the newspaper and television programs "are private companies attached to the commercial register, and have nothing to do with organizations that are being persecuted."

The offices of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and four other NGOs in Managua were also occupied, and lawmakers cancelled their permits to operate.

"Brutal display of brute force against journalists from @confidencial_ni in Nicaragua... this regime... aims to demolish critical voices in its country," Human Rights Watch director Jose Miguel Vivanco said on Twitter.

Leftist President Daniel Ortega first came to power in 1979 as a leader of the leftist Sandinista rebels that toppled the US-backed Somoza family dictatorship. After leaving office in 1990 he returned to power in 2007.