9/7/10 Cuba (CSW) – A respected Cuban church leader who was unexpectedly arrested and tried in court last week has been cleared of all charges after his accusers gave contradictory evidence against him. Reverend Roberto Rodriguez was allowed to return to his family and is recuperating at home after being found not guilty of “threatening behavior”.
According to Reverend Rodriguez’s family, state security officials arrived at their home without warning on 30 August and forced Reverend Rodriguez to go with them. The 67 year old pastor, who is in poor health, was unable to take his medication and was forced to hitchhike with the two officials from Cardenas to Santa Clara. They arrived at 1 am and the following day traveled to the town of Placetas, in Central Cuba, where Reverend Rodriguez stood trial on Thursday 2 September.
Prosecutors recommended that Reverend Rodriguez be given a 1-year prison sentence, but following the contradictory evidence given by his accusers, the Rodriguez family believes the tribunal had no choice but to find him not guilty. However, the court handed down a fine to the church leader for reasons that are unclear.
Reverend Rodriguez became a government target after the organisation he led publicly withdrew from a government sanctioned religious umbrella group in the second half of 2008. CSW believes that the criminal charges against him are an attempt to discredit and silence him.
Charges were first brought against Reverend Rodriguez in late 2008 but no trial date materialised and he has spent the last 21 months under house arrest. Meanwhile, his family has suffered verbal and physical abuse from their neighbours, apparently acting with the support of the government, and their house has been vandalised.