- Associated Press - Sunday, August 5, 2018

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) - A rights group that has documented killings during months of political unrest in this Central American nation says it is closing its offices due to threats and harassment targeting its staff.

The Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association said in a statement late Saturday that its facilities have been besieged by “unauthorized armed groups and threatening phone calls.”

It also complained of “illegal practices of judicial persecution and criminalization without legal basis” against its personnel. It did not directly identify those it believes are responsible.

The group says government security forces and armed, allied civilian groups are responsible for most of the 448 deaths it has documented since the protests began April 19.

President Daniel Ortega has denied responsibility and accuses those demanding he leave office of attempting a coup.

The government has acknowledged 195 killed in the unrest, while the Organization of American States said Thursday that it has counted 317 deaths.

The rights association has been among the most active in calling for an end to the violence and for the release of people arrested.

It said the closures are necessary to protect staff and for now it will be attending to complaints online only. The group’s director, Alvaro Leiva, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The association’s most recent report said 55 of the killings came in Masaya, southeast of the capital, where protesters had maintained barricades for weeks in the Monimbo neighborhood until a deadly crackdown to clear the streets. There, like elsewhere, the group sought to mediate between police and authorities.

“Dr. Leiva has put (his life) on the line amid bullets and lots of violence. If not for him, who knows how many more dead there would have been in Masaya,” said Edwin Roman, parish priest of the San Miguel Church in the city.

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