Family fights to free UW grad from Central American prison

SEATTLE - The family of a University of Washington alumnus is working tirelessly to get him out of a Nicaraguan prison, where he is serving a 22-year sentence.

Jason Puracal's family says he was wrongfully convicted two years ago and thrown into one of the most dangerous Central American prisons. Now family members are going to new lengths to try to get him freed.

"He was the kind of brother who would be very protective - but would also challenge you," says Jason's sister, Janis Puracal.

Janis and her sister are ready to fly 4,000 miles to Nicaragua where they plan to fight for their brother.

He was arrested by the Nicaraguan National Police on Nov. 11, 2010. Since then, Jason Puracal has been locked in a Nicaraguan jail, convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking.

The UW graduate originally went to Nicaragua 10 years ago with the Peace Corps. He got into real estate and was featured on House Hunters International.

But in 2010 police stormed his home and office - accusing him of being part of a drug ring.

"There were no drugs ever presented in the case - not one ounce of drugs," says Janis Puracal.

Nevertheless, she says, her brother was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison because of politics. One of the 10 strangers arrested with him was running for political office.

Jason Puracal filed an appeal last year, but no hearing has been set.

"They didn't care what the truth was. They just wanted a conviction," says Janis Puracal.

Despite pleas from the United Nations and the U.S. government, Jason Puracal is still locked up, his health deteriorating.

Now Janis Puracal, who is also a lawyer, will go with family to Nicaragua to meet with judges in an effort to jump-start her brother's appeal.

She says they'll fight because love for family goes beyond all measures.

"I know that if the tables were turned, Jason would be at the prison tearing down walls to get me out," she says. "He would never let something like this happen to me."

Janis Puracal and her sister leave for Nicaragua on Sunday night. She says they're scheduled to meet with the appellate court judges who will hear her brother's case.


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