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The Associated PressOctober 19, 2023
A poster featuring Bishop Rolando Alvarez and Pope Francis hangs inside the Cathedral in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Aug. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Inti Ocon, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaragua has released 12 Roman Catholic priests jailed on a variety of charges and sent them to Rome following an agreement reached with the Vatican, the Nicaraguan government said in a statement late Wednesday.

The government of President Daniel Ortega said that the priests were flown to Rome Wednesday afternoon following productive talks with the Vatican. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the church's top figure in Nicaragua, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Nicaraguan government said the deal showed “the permanent will and commitment to find solutions.”

Bishop Rolando Álvarez was not among the names of the priests listed. Álvarez was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced in February to 26 years in prison shortly after Ortega's government sent 222 prisoners to the United States in a deal brokered by the U.S. government.

Álvarez had refused to get on that flight. Nicaragua's government later stripped those prisoners of their citizenship.

Ortega's government has aggressively pursued the Catholic church in recent years. Ortega has maintained that the church aided popular protests against his administration in April 2018 that he considered an attempted coup.

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