Cuban Pastor Granted Asylum but Blocked from Leaving Country
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A Cuban pastor who was imprisoned on bogus
charges has been granted asylum by the United States, but refused
permission to leave Cuba. He is the second high-profile protestant
pastor to be granted asylum in the US this year.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity worldwide (CSW),
Pastor Omar Gude Perez, who was imprisoned in May 2008, his wife Kenia
and their two children, learned on July 18 they had been granted asylum.
However, two days later, Cuban immigration officials in Camaguey
informed them they would not be issued exit visas, referred to in Cuba
as a White Card.
CSW said authorities justified their decision to the family by saying
Perez must serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in Cuba,
despite the Cuban government allowing scores of political prisoners to
go into exile last year without completing their sentences.
CSW reported that Perez was granted conditional freedom, and released
from prison earlier this year after serving three years of a
six-and-a-half year sentence. If he is forced to serve out the rest of
his sentence in Cuba, he and his family would be forced to stay in the
country until 2014.
As part of the conditions of his conditional freedom, Perez is
prohibited from pastoral work, including preaching, and his movements
are severely restricted.
CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, "We were
relieved to hear that the Gude family has been granted asylum, but
strongly condemn the Cuban government's petty decision to deny Pastor
Gude and his family the right to leave the country. Their decision to
leave the country was reluctantly made after years of intense
persecution on the part of the authorities."
He added, "Unless the Cuban government is prepared to cease its
persecution of the family and to allow them to work as pastors openly
and without restrictions, they must afford them the same right they have
granted so many others and allow them to go into exile."
CSW is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through
advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.