Effort Under Way To Free American From Nicaragua Prison

Nicaraguan Authorities Convicted Jason Puracal Of Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering

An international mission is under way to free a man who has been locked up in a Nicaragua prison for nearly two years.

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Washington resident Jason Puracal moved to Nicaragua to join the Peace Corps in 2002. After starting a family, he entered the real estate business. Business was going well, and Puracal was spotlighted on an HGTV special. Some think his success could have made him a target.

La Modelo may be one of the most dangerous prisons in Central America.

"It was pretty scary," Puracal explained from the prison. "Police in masks with automatic weapons came into my office."

He said they verbally and physically assaulted him. What he is most worried about is his four-year-old son, who has Down syndrome.

Puracal was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. He has been held at La Modelo prison since November 2010.

Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project, a group that helps free those wrongly convicted, said Puracal's case was anything but fair.

"This is a case with literally no evidence," Brooks said. "There's no such thing as a drug case without drugs."

Brooks said that's exactly what it was. He believes the money laundering charges are just as bogus.

"This was an escrow account, and he had witnesses that could have come in and explain each and every transaction in that account," said Brooks.

Brooks said Puracal wasn't given a chance to introduce any evidence or witnesses.

Former U.S. government officials have come forward to say Puracal was wrongfully imprisoned.

San Diegan Eric Volz spent more than a year in the same prison until authorities realized they made a mistake.

"The conditions are sub-human." Volz said. He described it as "the waiting room to hell."

Volz said there are about 10 men to one cramped cell and "a hole in the corner, which is essentially the toilet [and] the sink."

He said the heat is suffocating and there isn't any running water.

Brooks told 10News Puracal got so sick from untreated water he had to jimmy-rig an electrical wire to try and boil it. He said Puracal is ill and emaciated after losing 80 pounds.

"He can't survive the sentence that he's been given," Volz said. "If the world knows that this man is being held wrongfully, it will eventually spit him out the other end."

Volz said it played a huge role in his release, so he urges people to reach out to local leaders to speak out on Puracal's behalf.

"My greatest fear is that he won't survive long enough in prison to be able to attend his own appeal," Volz added.

To learn more about the movement to free Puracel, visit freejasonp.com.

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