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Compass Direct (03/31/06) – Today marks 40 days of imprisonment without charge for the Rev. Carlos Lamelas, a Cuban pastor jailed in Havana for allegedly aiding refugees who sought to emigrate illegally.

Cuban authorities have yet to arraign Lamelas, a former national president of his church, or to advise him of the formal charges against him. Sources in the island nation say the Castro regime often uses this type of treatment to harass persons it considers to be political dissidents.

Police officers arrested Lamelas at his home in the La Lisa neighborhood of Havana on February 20, confiscating his computer, personal documents and several pieces of office equipment.

The evangelical minister is being held at the Villa Marita Detention Center in the Havana borough of Arroyo Naranjo.

Authorities have allowed Lamelas’s defense attorney only one five-minute interview with him since the arrest.

More than a month passed before police informed the attorney of the allegations against his client. “[Authorities] said that three men from Holguín were going to be taken out of Cuba illegally, and they were caught,” a source close to the family said. “When pressed by the police who the person was trying to get them out, they blamed Carlos.”

Lamelas has not been to Holguín and doesn’t know the men who attempt to flee the country. “Some people theorize that they are using this incident to set a trap for Carlos,” the source said.

Officials have allowed Uramis Lamelas a 15-minute visit with her husband each Monday since his arrest. She told friends following her latest visit that Carlos appeared thin and pale; he has not been allowed to see sunshine once during his incarceration. He admitted to being “pretty discouraged” because the legal case is not moving forward.

“A [police appointed] ‘instructor’ is supposed to show up to explain the charges to Carlos and his lawyer,” the source said. “This man has not shown up since day one. They say he is ‘sick.’”

Legal procedure in Cuba requires the police appointed instructor to explain the charges to the accused and his defense counsel before the case can proceed to trial.

“So, as we understand it, until Carlos’s lawyer gets the official word from this instructor, nothing can or will happen,” the source added.

During one of the weekly visits, Lamelas’s 12-year-old daughter was permitted to see him.

Targeted as Activist

Uramis Lamelas has recently learned that her husband, who was initially denied contact with other prisoners, now shares a cell with five other men. The family knows little else about the treatment Lamelas is receiving in jail, however, because their brief, weekly interviews are closely monitored by two police guards.

An ordained minister of the Church of God ( Anderson , Ind. ), Carlos Lamelas resisted what he considered inappropriate government interference in church affairs while serving as president of the church’s national assembly of ministers.

Sources in Cuba believe Lamelas has been targeted for harassment because the authorities consider him an activist bent on achieving greater religious freedom.

Fellow pastors in different parts of Cuba have learned of Lamelas’s plight and have organized prayer vigils on his behalf. His wife said that ministerial colleagues from several evangelical churches on the island have telephoned to ask about him and offer their support.

The fate of the imprisoned pastor remains shrouded in uncertainty.

“They are holding him to punish him, very unjustly,” a friend of the family told Compass. “Carlos wants to put closure to this problem, but it seems his human rights have been suspended. He can’t do anything.”