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12/27/08 Cuba (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) – A prominent church leader will be put on trial on Monday (December 29) in what members of his organisation say is a government campaign to silence and discredit him.

Reverend Robert Rodriguez, pastor of the Los Pinos Nuevos de Sagua la Grande Church and the National President of the Interdenominational Fellowship of Evangelical Pastors and Ministers in Cuba (the Spanish acronym is CIMPEC) and his son, Eric Gabriel Rodriguez del Toro, who is also a pastor, have been accused of “offensive behaviour” by a neighbour who has carried out a campaign of harassment, with the apparent support of local government officials, against the families for a number of years. Prosecutors are requesting that Pastor Rodriguez be given a one-year prison sentence.

Pastor Eric Gabriel Rodriguez, who lives in Placetas in north-central Cuba, was tried on 8 December and was sentenced to three-months to one-year probation; any problems with the authorities will result in him being sent to prison.

As in similar cases in Cuba, however, church leaders in the country say that the authorities are using the charges by the neighbour as a pretext for pressuring and possibly imprisoning the two pastors. They believe that the real reason behind this trial lies in the withdrawal of CIMPEC from the Cuban Council of Churches, in September of this year, under the leadership of Reverend Rodriguez. At the time, CIMPEC published a letter outlining their reasons for withdrawing from the CCC in which they cited consistent and illegal interference in internal CIMPEC affairs by the CCC leadership over the past year.

Religious freedom in Cuba has worsened significantly over the past year. Another church leader, Pastor Omar Gude Perez has been imprisoned since May without being brought to trial. According to church leaders in Cuba, these situations illustrate a pattern of official intolerance towards religious leaders who resist government interference in church organisations.

In October, government authorities stripped Reverend Rodriguez of his position as President of CIMPEC in the government Registry of Associations, a move which was condemned as unconstitutional by the members of CIMPEC as it was done without their involvement or approval. Since then, they say, the families have been subjected to a campaign of accusations and harassment, culminating in this trial.

Reverend Rodriguez’s health has suffered as a result of the situation; he has had problems with his kidneys and has lost over thirty pounds over the past few months. A local official, Romulo Palacios, reportedly physically mistreated him when he and his son presented themselves at the local police station in Placetas Municipality.

Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW said, “We are deeply concerned for the well-being of Reverend Rodriguez and call on the Cuban authorities to drop the charges against him and his son. That the family was notified the day after Christmas and only three days before the scheduled trial indicates that the authorities are hoping that this will go unnoticed outside of the country. The international community must make it clear to the Cuban government that this is unacceptable and that religious freedom must be respected.”

For further information contact Matthew Jones, Public Affairs Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0063, email or visit

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

Background Notes:

-Reverend Rodriguez is being tried in the courts in Placetas Municipality in Villa Clara, in central Cuba. His case number is 777/08
-The full text of the CIMPEC letter to the CCC is available (in Spanish) upon request. Please contact Matthew Jones on for a copy.