Cuba: Prosecutor Recommends Acquittal of Church Leader

Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Tag Cloud

(Compass Direct News) — A prosecuting attorney in Havana on Monday (December 4) recommended that the Rev. Carlos Lamelas be acquitted of all charges of trafficking in illegal emigrants.

Those accusations had sent the evangelical pastor and former national president of his church to jail for more than four months earlier this year.

Despite the motion for acquittal, Lamelas’s future still remains in doubt.

“The trial is now at the stage of determining sentence, and we must await the judges’ decision,” Lamelas said. “The worst part is that we have to keep waiting possibly for one or two months more.”

Arrested in a surprise police raid on his Havana home the morning of February 20, Lamelas was unexpectedly released from the Villa Marita Detention Center on June 26.

Cuban authorities failed to present evidence to support the charges against Lamelas during his incarceration. Upon his release, they informed family members that “a change in procedure” had prompted them to grant the pastor “provisional liberty.”

Authorities summoned Lamelas to a hearing in Havana on Monday to hear arguments on the case. He appeared before a panel of five judges of the Provincial People’s Tribunal to present verbal arguments on the case.

“It turned into a very exhausting day,” Lamelas wrote in an e-mail following the hearing. “To begin with, the prosecutor who was supposed to present the charges against me fell ill, and they substituted another for him.”

The substitute prosecutor did not seek any punitive action against Lamelas and recommended that all charges against him be dropped.

Lamelas’ wife, Uramis, accompanied her husband to the hearing, along with his parents and fellow evangelical pastor Roberto Moreno of Guanábana.

Sources inside the island nation believe Lamelas has been targeted for official harassment because he challenged the Castro regime on religious rights issues.

For more than a decade, Lamelas, a professional scuba diver before entering the ministry, was active in the house church movement on the Isle of Youth.

While serving as president of the national board of the Church of God Lamelas refused to sign what amounted to a loyalty pledge to the Castro regime and resisted government interference in church affairs.

Lamelas lost weight while imprisoned and suffered from headaches and high blood pressure but said he suffered no mistreatment.

He credits international attention on his case, expressed through hundreds of letter from fellow Christians from around the world, for securing his unexpected release.

On one of her weekly visits to her husband near the end of his jail time in Villa Marita, Uramis Lamelas encountered a prison official who told her that her husband had been receiving large amounts of mail. The official reportedly asked her “to tell your husband’s friends to stop sending him letters.”

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