(Reuters) -Nicaragua's government has sent a dozen Catholic priests previously "processed" by judicial authorities in the Central American nation to Rome, following negotiations with the Vatican, according to an official statement on Wednesday.
Since earlier this year, the government of President Daniel Ortega has intensified a crackdown on Catholic clergy and church-affiliated institutions.
Ortega has previously accused church leaders of seeking to overthrow his government, while judicial authorities have arrested priests and accused some of committing treason, among other crimes.
Nicaraguan clergy have reported government surveillance of services and assaults amid the crackdown.
The government statement, which was posted by local media, stated that officials held "fruitful conversations" with Catholic leadership, including both local church leaders as well as unnamed Vatican officials.
Nicaragua's Catholic bishops conference did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bishop Rolando Alvarez, an outspoken Ortega critic, was earlier this year sentenced to a 26-year jail term on treason charges, but was not among the 12 priests the government statement said had been sent to Rome on Wednesday afternoon.
(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Christopher Cushing)