An American man imprisoned in a Nicaraguan cell claims his innocence and attributes his survival thus far to "crackers and peanuts and raisins" in an exclusive phone conversation with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
The man, Jason Puracal, a 35-year-old from Washington State, has been imprisoned for the past two years. The imprisonment came when Nicaraguan authorities raided his real estate office located in the tourist city of San Juan del Sur. In November, a judge found Puracal guilty of money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime and sentenced him to 22 years in prison. His wife (whom he met in the country) and supporters back his claim of innocence, and cite no evidence used to support the charges.
He opened his successful real estate business after graduating from college in Washington and working in the Peace Corps. He stayed because he fell in love with the country. Now, he's in the fight for his life in the very place that had become his paradise.
Jared Genser, a well-known international human rights attorney, said Puracal has never met the other defendants, and the co-defendants told the judge in the case that they had never met Puracal. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention gave the opinion that Puracal should be freed. While it doesn't have the authority to force a country to free an inmate, it sends a strong diplomatic message, said Genser.
"The fact that Jason is the only one of more than 3,000 Americans imprisoned abroad (to have the support of the U.N.), the U.N. calling for his release should demonstrate to the Nicaraguan government that its failure to resolve this case quickly will have serious diplomatic consequences," Genser said.
At the end of the call with Anderson Cooper, Puracal stated: "I am 100 percent innocent of the crimes I've been accused of, and I can't wait to see my family. And I thank everyone for all their support and their effort."
Officials are continuing to work to try and free the American man from imprisonment.
What do you think: Should the U.N. step in to help free Puracal?