Protestant pastors interrogated by Cuban authorities

Published 08 May 2011  |  
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has expressed concern over the detention and interrogation of three Protestant pastors by Cuban authorities over the weekend.

The pastors are affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, a network of churches which has faced interference by the Cuban government in recent years.

According to CSW, high ranking state security agents and communist party officials took Pastors Benito Rodriguez and Barbara Guzman in for questioning on Saturday.

The pastors were taken to the Palma Street Police Station in Camaguey where they were kept for two hours.

They allege that the authorities interrogated them and tried to persuade them to stop holding church services in their home.

On Sunday, the head of the Office of Religious Affairs in the Provincial Ministry of Justice interrupted a serving being officiated by the two pastors and issued a summons demanding that they present themselves and proof of the ownership of their home to the Ministry of Justice on May 6. Pastor Rodriguez, 45, has lived in the house his entire life.

Another pastor, Bernardo de Quesada Salomon, was detained on the same day after leaving his house. He says is interrogators put pressure on him and threatened him in a bid to make him abandon his pastoral work.

One leader in the Apostolic Movement, Pastor Omar Gude Perez, is in prison serving a six-and-a-half year prison sentence under conditional liberty.

He told CSW that pressure on the network of churches had intensified.

"This is just one of the many occasions on which they have been detained, fined, or threatened by the Castro regime which has not altered in the least its policy of denial of religious liberty to and aggression towards the Apostolic Movement," he said.

Pastor Gude Perez told CSW that several pastors, including his wife Kenia Denis, were recently refused permission to leave the country in order to attend religious conferences abroad.

The network suspects that authorities denied their request because its members continue to report religious liberty violations in Cuba to international human rights groups and the media.

Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director at CSW, said, "We are deeply concerned at the arbitrary detention and intimidation of Pastors Rodriguez, Guzman and de Quesada and the more generalised hostility toward churches affiliated with the Apostolic Movement on the part of the government.

"We call on the Cuban government to cease its harassment of these men and women and to allow these churches to register and operate freely."

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