By Worthy News Staff
HAVANA, CUBA (Worthy News) — There was international concern Tuesday, July 14, over the detention of a Cuban Evangelical pastor, after news emerged he has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges that include "counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes" as part of what rights investigators called “mounting state hostility towards religious groups."
The family home of detained Pastor Omar Gude Pérez will also confiscated as part of the sentence, trial observers said.
State prosecutors initially attempted to charge Gude Pérez with "human trafficking", although these accusations were dropped in March 2009 after a court in the central town of Camaguey reportedly ruled there was no evidence.
However Pastor Gude Pérez remained detained and in mid-April new charges of 'falsification of documents and illicit economic activities” were reportedly filed. The prosecution’s petition also accused the pastor of “counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes.”
Britain-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has been in close contact with the family, suggested that the charges are linked to the government's concerns over his leadership role in the ‘Apostolic Reformation’, a fast growing Christian organisation;
"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 twenty other church leaders were temporarily arrested and threatened in the last two months."
The group added that some Christians 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."
CSW said that has been an increase in reported “violations of religious liberty” since Raul Castro took power in early 2008.
"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 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," the group explained.
CSW Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris said in a statement to Worthy News that his group "In light of the evidence given" strongly "condemns Pastor Omar Gude Pérez’s prison sentence and call on the Cuban Government to immediately investigate and review his case."
CSW said it has also urged Cuban authorities to ratify what is known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "and remind them of the protections, in particular religious freedom, laid out in that document".