MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- A court in Nicaragua on Tuesday ordered the release of a suspected armed pro-government civilian sentenced to 15 years in prison for the killing of Brazilian medical student Rayneia Lima a year ago.
Three judges in the Managua Court of Appeals freed Pierson Gutiérrez, who was sentenced last November for homicide and carrying illegal weapons. They based their decision on an amnesty law approved earlier this month that benefited demonstrators involved in anti-government protests that began in April, 2018.
University officials said Lima was riding in a vehicle in Managua last July when it was riddled by bullets that struck several of her vital organs. The shots came from pro-government civilians who had taken over the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua as Lima was traveling near that campus, they said. Lima was a sixth-year student and practicing resident at the Carlos Roberto Huembes Hospital.
Police say Gutiérrez acknowledged shooting Lima several times as she drove home from a hospital shift.
Gutiérrez's defense had requested a reduction of his sentence in March. When the amnesty law was approved, his lawyers filed an appeal citing it.
"This is barbarous. It is truly outrageous and grotesque," said Vilma Núñez, president of the non-governmental Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, noting that Gutiérrez was "the only prisoner" among pro-government forces accused of killing civilians in the 2018 protests. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says 325 deaths were recorded.
"What we are living here is unheard of and disgusting," Núñez said. "The government self-amnesty has begun."
Earlier this week Lima's mother, María José Da Costa, had sent a message from Brazil to Rayneia's classmates in which she said: "I want her death not to be in vain and that the culprits be punished."
Nicaragua's National Police attributed her death to a "private security guard." Later, police reported the arrest of Gutiérrez, identifying him as a security guard and saying it seized an M4 rifle from him.