Cuban court hands pastor six year prison sentence

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has called into question a six year prison sentence handed on Thursday to the leader of a growing Christian organisation in Cuba.

The international human rights organisation said there was “credible evidence” that Pastor Omar Gude Perez had been falsely charged as a result of his leadership role in the organisation Apostolic Reformation.

The pastor was initially detained by police in May 2008 on human trafficking charges. A court ruled in March that there was no evidence to support the charges but did not release Pastor Gude Perez from prison. Then in April he was charged with the falsification of documents and illicit economic activities, as well as “counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes”. His wife told CSW that false documents and testimonies had been presented in court.

CSW said it had received “reliable information” indicating that more than 20 church leaders had been arrested and threatened in the last two months. It believes some were detained just before the pastor’s hearing in May in order to prevent a show of support.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris condemned Pastor Gude Perez’s prison sentence and called on the Cuban government to launch an immediate investigation into his case.

She said: “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 says there had been a proliferation in reports of violations of religious liberty since Raul Castro came to power in 2008.

Another pastor, the Rev Roberto Rodgriguez, was called to present himself to the local courts for the fourth time last week. According to CSW, he and has family have faced ongoing legal harassment since the group he leads, the Fellowship of Evangelical Pastors and Ministers in Cuba, decided to break from the Cuban Council of Churches last October.