Thursday, July 28, 2011
Cuban Pastor Granted Asylum but Blocked from Leaving Country
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A Cuban pastor who was imprisoned on bogus charges has been granted asylum by the United States, but refused permission to leave Cuba. He is the second high-profile protestant pastor to be granted asylum in the US this year.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity worldwide (CSW), Pastor Omar Gude Perez, who was imprisoned in May 2008, his wife Kenia and their two children, learned on July 18 they had been granted asylum. However, two days later, Cuban immigration officials in Camaguey informed them they would not be issued exit visas, referred to in Cuba as a White Card.
CSW said authorities justified their decision to the family by saying Perez must serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in Cuba, despite the Cuban government allowing scores of political prisoners to go into exile last year without completing their sentences.
CSW reported that Perez was granted conditional freedom, and released from prison earlier this year after serving three years of a six-and-a-half year sentence. If he is forced to serve out the rest of his sentence in Cuba, he and his family would be forced to stay in the country until 2014.
As part of the conditions of his conditional freedom, Perez is prohibited from pastoral work, including preaching, and his movements are severely restricted.
CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, “We were relieved to hear that the Gude family has been granted asylum, but strongly condemn the Cuban government's petty decision to deny Pastor Gude and his family the right to leave the country. Their decision to leave the country was reluctantly made after years of intense persecution on the part of the authorities.”
He added, “Unless the Cuban government is prepared to cease its persecution of the family and to allow them to work as pastors openly and without restrictions, they must afford them the same right they have granted so many others and allow them to go into exile.”
CSW is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
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