U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain is calling for freeing Mountain Gateway members in Nicaragua.

Eleven pastors with the non-profit, which Alabamian Britt Hancock started, were sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison and were ordered to pay over $80 million in fines.

The Christian non-profit operated for years in Nicaragua, spreading God’s word, training pastors, building churches and helping with relief efforts across the country.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was using religious organizations to communicate with the public, but in 2018, he began to realize they could counter his authoritarian ways. He began targeting the organizations, starting with the Catholic church.

In 2023, Mountain Gateway held a series of massive events, bringing hundreds of thousands together. Soon after, the pastors were detained. They are accused of money laundering and organized crime, but no official paperwork was produced, and those imprisoned have not been allowed to contact family.

Mountain Gateway Pastors Alabama News
Mountain Gateway pastors imprisoned. Photo: ADF International and Mountain Gateway Order, Inc.

The Ortega-Murillo regime has unjustly detained 11 members of Mountain Gateway, an evangelical Christian organization, and two lawyers for over 6 months,” Hussain stated on X Friday. “I urge their immediate and unconditional release and respect for religious freedom in Nicaragua.”

Hancock himself has been threatened with arrest, along with members of his family.

"We are continuing our meetings in Washington and are so glad to see the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department issue a public statement about our situation," Hancock told 1819 News. "We remain vigilant in our efforts to see our pastors and lawyers falsely imprisoned in Nicaragua released to safety.

Congressmen have formed a coalition of around 65 members asking for the release of the prisoners. President Joe Biden increased sanctions on Nicaragua following a letter from the coalition.

Two attorneys for Mountain Gateway were also arrested, but the status of those cases has not been revealed.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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