Senators join fight to free UW grad held in Nicaragua

By:  Josh Kerns
Source: My Northwest

Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have joined the effort to free the University of Washington graduate sentenced to over 20 years in Nicaragua on drug charges despite a complete lack of evidence.

Tacoma native Jason Puracal has been imprisoned for over a year in a decrepit cell in the small town of Rivas.  He and his family have maintained his evidence and fought tirelessly for his freedom since he was arrested as part of an alleged drug trafficking ring.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Murray and Cantwell are joined by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with Washington Congressman Adam Smith, in urging the State Department to step up pressure on Nicaragua, citing numerous judicial problems.

"We've been fighting for over a year to try and get the State Department to step in on Jason's behalf," says Janice Puracal, Jason's sister, who is an attorney in Seattle.

"It's been so encouraging that now people are starting to wake up and realize there is something really wrong with this case," she says.

Along with the lack of evidence, the letter points out the judge in the case is not even a registered lawyer as required by Nicaraguan law.  It also calls out improper delays in Puracal's appeal.

Janice Puracal says she hopes the renewed attention will get people to increase letter writing and pressure the State Department. She says the timing is urgent because her brother is suffering from malnutrition, abuse and disgusting, lice and tick infested conditions.

"It's so hard to see him when his body is so broken down like that.  It's been really difficult for us to accept that this is his life right now.  So every day counts for us."