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Cuba Pastor Remains Behind Bars After Losing Appeal Right

Cuba Pastor Remains Behind Bars After Losing Appeal Right
Monday, February 1, 2010 (10:08 am)
By BosNewsLife Americas Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– There was international disappointment
Monday, February 1, that the leader of a growing network of independent
churches in Cuba has been denied the right to appeal his six-year
sentence by the Supreme Tribunal in Havana.

Cuban Evangelical Pastor Omar Gude Perez, who leads the 'Apostolic
Reformation' group, was convicted and sentenced on what Christians
called "trumped up charges" of "falsification of documents" during a
summary trial last July.

In a statement distributed by advocacy group Christian Solidarity
Worldwide (CSW) Pastor Gude Perez's wife, Kenia, said the court decision
confirmed her belief that her husband's arrest and imprisonment in May
2008 was "orchestrated" at the highest levels of government.

Pastor Gude Perez was initially charged with "human trafficking" but a
local court threw out the charges ten months later,citing a lack of
evidence, trial observers said. The latest charge was brought against
him a full year after his initial detention, CSW said.


The 's petition also accused the pastor of
"counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes.""We are extremely
disappointed to learn of the Supreme Tribunal's decision to refuse
Pastor Gude Perez's right of appeal," said CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn

Another key pastor in the Apostolic Reformation network is reportedly
contesting government efforts to evict him from his home and confiscate
his property. Pastor Mario Alvarez has appealed to the Supreme Tribunal
to prevent what he believes is the confiscation of his home.

CSW said that at least 30 other church leaders from the same network
were detained in various parts of the country during 2009 and "several
report that the authorities were threatening to confiscate their
homes."Thomas said that the, "number of church leaders recently
clearly indicates a government policy to crack down on this independent
religious group."

He said CSW has urged Cuban authorities to "immediately release Pastor
Perez and strongly urge the Cuban government to stop legal harassment of
the leadership of the Apostolic Reformation."


At least scores of Christians and other dissidents are known to be held
in prisons in the Communist-run island. An island group
said this month that the number of political prisoners behind bars in
Cuba fell by just five to 201 in the past half year.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said
Havana's Communist government has increasingly used a strategy of quick
arrests and releases to punish anti-government activists, contributing
to a decline in the number jailed at any given moment.

That figure dropped sharply during the first two years of the Raul
Castro government, falling from 316 in July 2006 when he took power from
his older brother Fidel. But the commission said that decline has
leveled off recently.

"Unless a miracle occurs, the situation of political, civil and economic
rights in Cuba throughout 2010 will stay the same or get worse," The
Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted Elizardo Sanchez, head of the
Havana-based commission, as saying.

Sanchez's group recorded 869 brief detentions of opposition leaders and
dissidents in the last six months. U.S. based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
said last week that among those being harassed is well-known blind human
rights defender Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva and his family.


"In recent weeks, Cuban authorities have repeatedly threatened to force
Gonzalez Leiva and his wife and fellow rights defender Tania Maceda
Guerra to leave Havana and move elsewhere on the island. The authorities
have pressed for the move under a draconian law that restricts
of movement."

The "harassment of Gonzalez Leiva offers further proof that the Raul
Castro government is willing to do everything within its power to
prevent human rights monitoring, including forcibly displacing the
monitors themselves," added HRW Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco.

Cuban authorities have consistently denied human rights abuses and the
existence of 'dissidents' on the Communist island, saying those
persecuted are mainly "mercenaries" of the United States seeking to
overthrow the government.

However a recent HRW report – "New Castro, Same Cuba: Political
Prisoners in the Post-Fidel Era" -claims that has kept
Cuba's "repressive machinery" fully active, "quashing virtually all
forms of political dissent."

Independent Christian groups are also viewed as a threat to Castro's
power base, several rights activists have suggested.

The report also cites the government's continued use of Decree 217 to
restrict the of journalists, human rights defenders,
and other members of civil society who criticize the government.

BosNewsLife – Christian News Agency » Archive » Cuba Pastor Remains
Behind Bars After Losing Appeal Right (1 February 2010)

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