Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cuban pastor says he was denied permission to travel abroad

Posted on Thursday, 12.12.13

Cuban pastor says he was denied permission to travel abroad

A Cuban pastor who has been harshly critical of the government says he
was denied permission to travel abroad last month for a religious
gathering even though his passport and visa were all in order.

Bernardo de Quesada Salomón said he was checking in at the Havana
airport Nov. 27 for a flight to the Dominican Republic when immigration
officials told him his computer records showed he had a "limitation" and
could not leave the island.

Authorities never told him the reasons for the block, de Quesada said,
but State Security officials in his hometown of Camagüey told neighbors
that it was because he had illegally added a bathroom to a house he was
turning into a church.

Cuba's government lifted a widely hated requirement for an exit permit
on Jan. 14, but retained the power to block any travel abroad for a
blanket "national interest" that has never been detailed.

Others blocked from traveling abroad have included another pastor in de
Quesada's Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics, Mario May Medina, and a
dozen former political prisoners paroled before completing their long

The London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organization
that advocates religious freedom and human rights and was sponsoring the
conference in the Dominican Republic, urged the Cuban government to lift
the "limitation."

De Quesada's participation in the conference "cannot seriously be
considered a threat to national security," Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas
said in a statement Thursday. "CSW is concerned that this may open the
door to the Cuban government arbitrarily banning other religious leaders
from traveling out of the country."

De Quesada, 48, an Evangelical pastor, said he was arrested, harassed
and blocked from traveling abroad several times from 2003 to this year
because of his work with the Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics and
the New Apostolic Reform in Cuba.

He is not a dissident, he said, but his efforts to "preach the biblical
truth have put me against this communist government," he told El Nuevo
Herald on Thursday in a phone interview from Camagüey.

De Quesada said he made two trips abroad this year, the last one in
October, but apparently angered State Security officials in Camagüey
when scores of his supporters greeted him at the city's airport on this
last return.

Source: "Cuban pastor says he was denied permission to travel abroad -
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