Cuban Church Leader Released
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Reverend Roberto Rodriguez, 67, was allowed to return to his family and is recuperating at home after being found not guilty of “threatening behavior.”
CSW said according to Rodriguez’s family, state security officials arrived at their home without warning on Aug. 30, and forced Rodriguez to go with them.
The pastor, who CSW said is in poor health, was unable to take his medication and forced to hitchhike with the two officials from Cardenas to Santa Clara. They arrived at 1 a.m. and the following day traveled to the town of Placetas, in Central Cuba, where Rodriguez stood trial on Sept.2.
CSW said prosecutors recommended that Rodriguez be given a one-year prison sentence. However, following what CSW called 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.
Rodriguez became a government target after the organization 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.
CSW said charges were first brought against Rodriguez in late 2008, but no trial date materialized and he has spent the last 21 months under house arrest.
Meanwhile, CSW said, his family has suffered verbal and physical abuse from neighbors, apparently acting with the support of the government, and their house has been vandalized.
CSW commented that the behavior of Rodriguez’ neighbors is consistent with a government strategy of encouraging “acts of repudiation.” That’s where civilians are encouraged to harass and sometimes attack Cubans who have fallen afoul of the authorities, usually human rights or democracy activists.
CSW said the harassment of the Rodriguez family culminated in a physical attack against Rodriguez’s daughter-in-law, who suffered a miscarriage and was hospitalized.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a news release, “CSW welcomes the news that Reverend Rodriguez was found not guilty of the charges against him. The treatment that Reverend Rodriguez, a respected national leader and pastor for 48 years, has endured over the past two years, simply because his organization resisted attempts by the government to interfere in their internal affairs, is a disgrace.”
He added, “CSW calls on the Cuban government to ensure that restitution is made to the family for the damage caused to their house by their now discredited accusers, and that they are allowed to return to their home with the full guarantees of protection that are their right as Cuban citizens.”
CSW is a human rights organization which works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
For further information, go to www.csw.org.uk.