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Originally published Friday, June 10, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Tacoma native held in Nicaragua gets congressman's support

Jason Puracal, who grew up in Tacoma, is being held for drug trafficking in Nicaragua without sufficient evidence, Congressman Adam Smith said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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University of Washington alumnus and Tacoma native Jason Puracal, who's being held by Nicaraguan police under allegations of drug trafficking, received support Friday from Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma.

Puracal is being held without evidence, Smith said at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Seattle, where he and Puracal's mother and sisters spoke to a crowd of about 50.

He's been in police custody since November, when he was arrested at his office in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, where he owned a RE/MAX franchise.

Police have denied Puracal medical care, food and water, said his sister, Janis Puracal, who's helped lead a campaign called "Free Jason P."

Smith, who called the situation "a grave injustice," said his office has been talking with the U.S. State Department in Nicaragua to improve the living conditions for Puracal. Officials from the offices of U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell also have talked with the State Department in support of Puracal, his sister said.

"There is a painful history of Nicaragua doing these types of injustice to foreigners," Smith said. "This is something that could happen to any citizen abroad."

Puracal moved to Nicaragua in 2002 after joining the Peace Corps and has been living with his wife, Scarleth Flores Puracal, who's from Nicaragua, and their 4-year-old son, Jabu.

The list of police allegations against Puracal includes that he had $200 in three currencies — Nicaraguan, U.S. and Costa Rican — when he was arrested, and the RE/MAX bank account had large sums of money coming in and out.

Under Nicaraguan law, prisoners are not supposed to be detained for more than six months without trial, Janis Puracal said. He has been in prison for seven months, and his trial has been repeatedly delayed. His next trial date is June 15.

Jessie Van Berkel: 206-464-3192 or jvanberkel@seattletimes.com

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