A State Prosecutor has requested a seven-year prison sentence be given to Pastor Omar Gude Perez, currently imprisoned in Camaguey, Cuba, on charges of “illicit economic activity and falsification of documents”.
Those close to him, however, believe he is being targeted because of his religious activity and leadership of a rapidly growing Christian movement. The prosecutor’s petition goes on to accuse the pastor of “counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes”.
Pastor Gude Perez, a leader of a non-denominational, non-political religious movement in Cuba known as the “Apostolic Reformation,” has already spent almost one year in prison without being given a trial.
He was first detained on 22 May 2008, and authorities originally attempted to charge him with “human trafficking”. These charges were thrown out last month by a local court citing a complete lack of evidence. The case was then referred to Havana and last week the family was notified of the new charges.
The pastor’s wife says the new charges are merely an attempt to disguise the fact that he is a victim of religious persecution. Her family had received threats and warnings to curtail their religious activities from government officials for months prior to his detention. A number of other leaders and members of their religious group have also received threats and been harassed by the authorities.
Rev Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “The imprisonment of Pastor Gude Perez is a clear case of religious persecution and is part of a larger crackdown on religious groups in Cuba. We call on the Cuban authorities to release him immediately and, in line with the protections laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed last year, to guarantee the right to religious freedom for all groups.”