Cuba: Pastor receives 6-year prison sentence; home confiscated

Rights group says Cuban prosecutors tried to charge leader with ‘human trafficking’

CUBA (ANS) — A Cuban evangelical pastor has been sentenced to six years in prison despite reports that he was falsely charged due to his leadership role in the ‘Apostolic Reformation.’

Pastor Omar Gude Perez

Pastor Omar Gude Pérez’ home will also be confiscated as part of the sentence, according to a news release from the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Pastor Gude Pérez was initially detained on May 2, 2008 and was in prison awaiting a trial date for over a year, CSW reported. State prosecutors initially attempted to charge Pastor Gude Pérez with ‘Human Trafficking.’

The CSW report continues: “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.”

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.’

Pastor Omar Gude Pérez’s wife, Kenia, has informed CSW that false documents and testimonies were presented in court.

“CSW has also received reliable information indicating that more than 20 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,” reported the human rights organization.

“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) in 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, the fast-growing group 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 specializes in promoting religious liberty and works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs.

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 theresamalinowska(@)csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Photo: Pastor Omar Gude Pérez. (CSW)

Article originally published by ASSIST News Service. Reported by Michael Ireland.

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