When Nicaraguan paramilitaries stripped him naked and pushed him into a grave-like hole, Marco Noel Novoa assumed his life would end soon.
The 26-year-old student was an active participant in the protests against Nicaragua's powerful president, Daniel Ortega. He helped occupy a university. He collected money for the opposition. And he was an American citizen - born in Macon, Georgia - in the middle of a conflict for which the State Department has denounced Ortega's government and demanded an end to state-sponsored violence.
With guns trained on him, Novoa said, he cried out in desperation, hurling insults at Ortega and calling for a free Nicaragua.
"I was thinking I...