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Cuba: Baptist Pastor Threatened With Criminal Charges

ICC Note: 

A Baptist Pastor in Cuba has been threatened with criminal charges. The threats came after he met with other pastors who were complaining of violations of their religious freedoms.

By Kiri Kankhwende

10/20/2014 Cuba (CSW)-Cuban Baptist pastor and religious freedom activist Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso has received official notice that he may face criminal charges if he does not break ties with “counter-revolutionary elements” in and outside of Cuba,  and if he does not stop giving radio interviews. His wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, was summoned for an interview with security services on 15 October.

Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a prominent religious freedom activist and church leader, was officially summoned to the State Security Unit in Camajuani, Villa Clara on 8 October. He was threatened with arrest if he did not appear. At the unit a Lieutenant Colonel read out an Official Warning or “Acta de Advertencia”, a document that can be used as justification for future arrests and criminal charges. Two witnesses, whom the pastor did not recognize, were present and offered testimony of his “counter-revolutionary” links. This is the third time that government agents have unsuccessfully attempted to pressure Reverend Lleonart Barroso into signing an Acta de Advertencia.

According to Reverend Lleonart Barroso, who leads the Ebenezer Baptist Church in the town of Taguayabon in Villa Clara Province, and who is a member of the Western Baptist Convention, one of the largest registered religious organisations on the island, the Lieutenant Colonel told him verbally that the government was unhappy about the pastor’s recent visit to the eastern part of the country. The official added that if the pastor did not change his behaviour soon, a criminal case would “probably be filed.”

The purpose of Reverend Lleonart Barroso’s visit was to meet with church leaders who had reported violations of religious freedom. Reverend Lleonart Barroso met with Pastor Yiorvis Denis, the leader of a church in Camaguey which has come under repeated threat of forced closure and confiscation of property. He also met with Pastor Esmir Torreblanca, the leader of a large church in Santiago that was razed by the government in July.

Reverend Lleonart Barroso told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), “I intend to continue on with my activities in the defence of religious freedom in Cuba.”

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