Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on the ongoing case of Jason Puracal, an American jailed in Nicaragua on drug trafficking charges:
“I am very concerned about the son of one of my constituents, an American citizen, who is currently being held in a Nicaraguan prison.
“Jason Puracal was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Nicaragua on November 11, 2010. In the nearly six months Mr. Puracal has been behind bars, the Nicaraguan authorities have presented no evidence linking him to any crime. There are also disturbing reports of Mr. Puracal being mistreated and denied medical care while in jail.
“If an American citizen commits a crime in a foreign country, it is my belief that they should be subject to that country’s judicial system. However, no evidence has been presented up to this point linking Mr. Puracal to drug trafficking.
“My office has been in regular contact with the American Consulate in Nicaragua, requesting better medical attention and more frequent visits for Mr. Puracal in prison. I also had the chance to meet with Mr. Puracal’s mother and sister several months ago, after which I personally called the U.S. State Department to urge direct action in this case.
“I believe, with heightened pressure from the State Department, there is a better chance for Mr. Puracal to have a fair trial. Nicaragua has a history of leveraging prosecutions against U.S. citizens for political reasons, as in the case of Eric Volz, an American whose murder conviction was overturned in 2007 due to a lack of evidence. Even after his conviction was overturned, it took direct involvement by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to convince the Nicaraguan court to finally free Mr. Volz.
“More attention from the U.S. government may be the only way to prevent this continued injustice. Going forward, I will be in contact with the American Ambassador to Nicaragua as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging communication with President Ortega’s administration about our concerns over the lack of evidence in this case.
“Jason Puracal’s next court date is May 16th and I will be closely following the progress of his trial.”