Friday, July 10, 2009
Christian Human Rights Group Condemns Cuban Pastor’s Six Year Prison Sentence
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
(ANS) -- A Cuban Evangelical pastor has been sentenced to six years in prison despite credible claims that he was falsely charged due to his leadership role in the 'Apostolic Reformation', a fast growing Christian organization.
According to a news release from the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the pastor’s family home will also be confiscated as part of the sentence, which was published locally on Thursday, July 9, 2009.
CSW says Pastor Omar Gude Pérez was initially detained on May 2, 2008 and was in prison awaiting a trial date for over a year. The news release explains that State prosecutors initially attempted to charge Pastor Gude Pérez with 'Human Trafficking.'
It says: "Although these charges were dropped in March 2009 after a court in Camaguey ruled there was no evidence, Pastor Gude Pérez was still not released from prison."
CSW says that in mid-April new charges of Falsification of Documents and IIlicit Economic Activities were filed. The prosecution’s petition also accused the pastor of 'counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes.'
The news release goes on to say: "Pastor Omar Gude Pérez’s wife Kenia has informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that false documents and testimonies were presented in court.
"CSW has also received reliable information indicating that more than twenty other church leaders were temporarily arrested and threatened in the last two months. Some were detained just before Pastor Gude Perez’s court hearing in May, indicating an attempt by the authorities to prevent a show of support for the pastor at his hearing."
It adds: "There has been an increase in reported violations of religious liberty since Raul Castro took power in early 2008, and the heavy sentence handed to Pastor Gude Pérez follows a pattern of mounting state hostility towards religious groups. For example, for the past nine months Reverend Roberto Rodriguez, a denominational leader, based in Placetas, has also been subjected to ongoing legal proceedings on trumped up charges. Last week he received a fourth citation commanding him to present himself to the local courts."
CSW states the legal harassment of Reverend Rodriguez and his family began after the Interdenominational Fellowship of Evangelical Pastors and Ministers in Cuba (Spanish acronym; CIMPEC) withdrew from the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) last October while under Reverend Rodriguez’s leadership.
CSW further went on to explain that the 'Apostolic Reformation' group is comprised of independent self-governing non-denominational churches, and as it is outside of traditionally and officially recognized denominations, it is viewed with suspicion by the government.
Alexa Papadouris, CSW’s Advocacy Director said: "In light of the evidence given by CSW’s partners, we strongly condemn Pastor Omar Gude Pérez’s prison sentence and call on the Cuban Government to immediately investigate and review his case. We urge the Cuban authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and remind them of the protections, in particular religious freedom, laid out in the that document."
CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Theresa Malinowska, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0)78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk.
|** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel,and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'
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