Call for investigation into attack on Cuban pastor
Published 13 March 2012
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has called upon the Cuban authorities to investigate an attack that reportedly left a pastor with brain damage.
Pastor Reutilio Columbie was found unconscious in the street several hours after leaving his house in Moa on 6 February.
The pastor had planned to travel to Holguin city to file a complaint against the authorities for confiscating a church vehicle.
The vehicle, bought by Pastor Columbie to transport church members, was seized by the authorities last December without warning or explanation.
It has reportedly been returned to the original owner, who has family ties with an individual in the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
The Central Committee's Office of Religious Affairs oversees the registration of church property and vehicles.
The attack was preceded by anonymous phone calls telling the pastor and his family to stop their challenge against the confiscation of the vehicle, or else face the consequences.
CSW fears that the attack is linked to Pastor Columbie's decision to take action against the authorities.
He cannot remember anything about the attack, but the only thing missing from his possession afterwards were papers related to the vehicle.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, the theft of documentation relating to the ownership of the church vehicle raised questions about the motives behind the violent assault on the pastor.
Pastor Reutilio, 41, is now recuperating at home with his wife Maida Perez and their three children, but still struggles with speech and memory. His daughter says that he is also frequently nauseous and dizzy.
The family initially received assurances of an investigation but has now been told that this will no longer proceed as too much time has lapsed.
"Cuba lacks legislation to protect religious freedom and guarantee church property," said Mr Thomas.
"This, combined with the fact that all religious matters are dealt with by the Office for Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), rather than regular judicial channels, leaves religious groups and leaders vulnerable to abuse and with no means to appeal decisions.
"CSW continues to call for the establishment of a legal framework, independent of the CCP, to regulate religious affairs.”