UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has reported that Pastor Omar Gude Pérez, an evangelical church leader in the Cuban “Apostolic Reformation” organization was sentenced to six years in prison on the false charges of “falsification of documents and illicit economic activities” and accused of “counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes.” According to the sentencing announcement published on July 9, the pastor's family home will also be confiscated.
Originally charged with human trafficking, these charges were dropped in March 2009 after a court ruled there was no evidence to support them. Pastor Pérez , however, was not released from prison and new charges were laid. There is little doubt that the real reason for Pastor Pérez’s imprisonment is his activities in a growing Christian movement that functions outside of traditional and officially recognised denominations. Hence, it is viewed with suspicion by the government.
Pérez’s wife Kenia informed UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that false documents and testimonies were presented in court during the trial. According to their press release today:
CSW has also received reliable information indicating that more than twenty other church leaders were temporarily arrested and threatened in the last two months. Some were detained just before Pastor Gude Perez’s court hearing in May, indicating an attempt by the authorities to prevent a show of support for the pastor at his hearing.
There has been an increase in reported violations of religious liberty since Raul Castro took power in early 2008, and the heavy sentence handed to Pastor Gude Pérez follows a pattern of mounting state hostility towards religious groups. For example, for the past nine months Reverend Roberto Rodriguez, a denominational leader, based in Placetas, has also been subjected to ongoing legal proceedings on trumped up charges. Last week he received a fourth citation commanding him to present himself to the local courts.
The Voice of the Martyrs condemns this sentencing and urges you to please continue to pray for Pastor Pérez. Pray that the Cuban government will investigate and review his case. Pray, too, for his wife Kenia and their two children during this difficult time. Consider posting a prayer on their behalf on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.