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Human Rights Group Condemns Church Beatings in Cuba

ICC Note

“We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Cuban authorities in Santiago . The physical attacks on human rights activists, who were peacefully exercising their right to worship, within the sanctity of the church itself sets an alarming precedent. …”

By Jeremy Reynalds

Thursday, December 6, 2007 (ANS) -A British-based human rights agency has expressed serious concern about reports that Cuban security agents severely beat about 18 human rights activists who were attending mass Tuesday evening.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that according to reports from Cuba , Cuban security agents stormed the Santa Teresita de Niño Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Santiago , which is located on the eastern tip of the country.

After kicking in the door, CSW reported the agents released tear gas into the church. They then beat and arrested the group of human rights activists. A number of women and a disabled man were among the victims.

Immediately prior to the church service, the group had been protesting the imprisonment of three other pro-democracy activists, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Eliécer Consuegra Rivas and Gerardo Sánchez Ortega.

According to CSW, Jaqueline Echevarria, the wife of Sanchez Ortega, had held a prayer and fasting vigil at her home, before marching with the other activists from the Santiago Cathedral to the Santa Teresita del Niño Jesus Church. According to the Cuban human rights organization, Directorio, Echevarria explained to the police that she believed it was both her duty and right to go to church to pray for her husband.

In a news release CSW said that Directorio also reported that the police responded with insults when the parish priest, Father Jose Conrado Rodriguez, questioned their actions. One activist was released as she had recently given birth, but the other 17 remain in prison.

CSW’s Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert, said in a news release, “We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Cuban authorities in Santiago . The physical attacks on human rights activists, who were peacefully exercising their right to worship, within the sanctity of the church itself sets an alarming precedent. Reports out of Cuba over the past 18 months indicate that religious liberty is deteriorating significantly. We call on the Cuban authorities to ensure that their security agents uphold fundamental religious rights and to immediately release the seventeen men and women who were arrested while attending mass.”

CSW is a human rights organization which works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs, and promotes religious liberty for all.