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Cuban Baptist pastor threatened with criminal charges

Cuban Baptist pastor and religious freedom activist the Revd 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.

Pastor BarrosoMr 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 recognise, were present and offered testimony of his “counter-revolutionary” links. This is the third time that government agents have unsuccessfully attempted to pressure Mr Barroso into signing an Acta de Advertencia.
 
Mr 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, said 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 his visit was to meet with church leaders who had reported violations of religious freedom. Mr 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.
 
Mr Barroso told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), 'I intend to continue on with my activities in the defence of religious freedom in Cuba.'

His wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, was also summoned for an interview with security services on 15 October.
 
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'Once again we call on the Cuban government to cease its harassment of Reverend Lleonart Barroso.

'We are deeply concerned that the Cuban government appears to equate the defence of freedom of religion or belief with ‘counter-revolutionary’ activity, even as it publicly maintains that these fundamental rights are respected in Cuba. CSW reminds the Cuban government of the provisions in the ICCPR and the ICESCR, which it has signed, to protect and uphold religious freedom and the civil rights of its population.

'We urge members of the international community to make representations to the Cuban government in support of Reverend Lleonart Barroso and to hold the Cuban government to account for its continued violations of religious freedom.'

Related: Cuban Baptist pastor under house arrest

Baptist Times, 16/10/2014
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