MANAGUA, Nicaragua ([ ]CNS) — A Nicaraguan priest and poet says he is being persecuted by his country’s government. Father Ernesto Cardenal, 83, was convicted in August of defaming a German businessman and was fined $1,025, which he has refused to pay. His bank accounts were frozen in September. Although the priest cannot be imprisoned because of his age and health, he could be sentenced to house arrest. A top figure in the liberation theology movement and a poet who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature, Father Cardenal accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega of orchestrating his conviction as “vengeance” for the priest’s political opposition and criticism. The two men were close allies during the 1980s, when Father Cardenal served as culture minister during Ortega’s first government. However, Father Cardenal resigned from the Sandinista Front in 1994 because he said Ortega and his supporters would not allow moderates a voice in the party.