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Cuba Releases Jailed Pastor

Unexpected, ‘provisional’ liberty comes for Carlos Lamelas.

LOS ANGELES, June 30 (Compass Direct) – The Rev. Carlos Lamelas, pastor and former national president of the Church of God in Cuba, was unexpectedly freed from jail on Monday (June 26).

The surprise move astonished and delighted many observers following the case. Members of Lamelas’s extended family accompanied his wife, Uramis, and two daughters to the Villa Marita Detention Center in Havana last Monday for what they thought would be their weekly 15-minute visit with the jailed pastor.

“It was a surprise indeed on Monday when we went for the visit,” Carlos Lamelas’s sister, Lourdes , informed friends in an e-mail. “They informed us that they had decided on a change in procedure and that the case was closed. He was free to go home.

“So we all came home together. For Uramis, the girls, our parents, me, in short, for the whole family, it was like injecting us with a bit of life.”

Arrested on February 20, 2006, Lamelas spent more than four months in jail without being formally charged. Government officials reportedly accused Lamelas of aiding Cuban citizens to leave the country illegally. They failed, however, to present evidence to support the accusations against Lamelas.

In a phone conversation from his home in Havana following his exit from jail, Lamelas told a friend that authorities had granted him “provisional” release.

“We don’t really understand what this provisional release means, especially since no formal charges were filed against him,” the friend said. “Basically, he is to keep his nose clean.”

Lamelas lost considerable weight while imprisoned, evidently due to a bout of gastritis. He also suffered from headaches, chest pains and high blood pressure. But he did not complain about his experience in jail during the phone call.

“For some reason, God allowed this to happen,” he told the friend, “and it’s not for my promotion, but so we can give Him honor and glory.”

Lamelas told him he wished to relay his deep thanks for many letters and notes he received, as well as for supporters’ prayers, the source added.

“He was able to receive many of the letters while in prison, which kept him greatly encouraged.”

Recently, one of the staff of the detention center told Uramis Lamelas that her husband had been receiving large amounts of mail from fellow Christians from around the world – one letter was postmarked Mongolia . The official reportedly asked her “to tell your husband’s friends to stop sending him letters.”

Authorities gave no details concerning their decision to release Lamelas, once a professional scuba diver who became active in the burgeoning house church movement after entering the ministry. The case has sparked speculation about the motives of the regime of Fidel Castro in its dealings with the evangelical community in Cuba .

Lamelas’s 5-year-old daughter, Daniela, perhaps best expressed the mixture of disbelief and jubilation that her father’s release inspired in fellow Christians.

“Mom, this is a dream!” she said when authorities delivered Lamelas to the custody of his family last Monday. A bit later she added, “Mom, this is not a dream, it’s real. Dad is with us!”