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Italian Priest Says Contras Kidnapped Him for 26 Hours With AM-Contras

April 26, 1988

EL ALGODON, Nicaragua (AP) _ An Italian priest said Monday he was held for 26 hours by rebels in northern Nicaragua for denouncing ″crimes of the Contras.″

Ubaldo Gervasoni, 43, said Contra rebels abducted him on April 19 in El Algodon, about 125 miles northeast of Managua in Zelaya province.

In an interview, the Roman Catholic priest said he had been threatened previously by Contra leaders in the region for having condemned ″assassinations and kidnappings by the Contras.″

Gervasoni has been based since January in nearby Waslala, on the border with Matagalpa state.

He said that the day before his abduction, three peasants were kidnapped from a local church by the U.S.-backed rebels.

One of them, Neris Robles, was found dead the next day, he said.

″They cut his throat,″ the priest said, adding that the whereabouts of the other two peasants was not known.

″Although they did not mistreat me physically and I was given food during my abduction of 26 hours, they kept me closed in the chapel of a church and sealed the doors with barbed wire,″ he said.

″They also threatened to send me to Honduras for the (Contra) high command to judge me,″ he said. ″They accused me of political activity and of being with the Sandinistas, but my mission is apostolic and I denounced abuses on both sides.″

He said the rebels released him to another parish priest, Enrique Blandon, and a group of parishioners in El Algodon. Blandon had been held by the rebels for 10 days in January.

The leftist Sandinistas and Contras, who have used bases in Honduras, have fought for nearly seven years. They signed a temporary truce March 23.

Gervasconi said there are many rebels in the region where he works and that the Sandinista army has withdrawn in the past month.

A 60-day cease-fire went into effect on April 1.

″Since that date you don’t hear the sounds of combat and campesinos are confident that peace can be reached. Many of them are optimistic and are preparing to plant this winter,″ he said.

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