Cuban pastor faces possible 10-year prison sentence

Cuban Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo is pictured with his wife Maridilegnis Carballo. He has been imprisoned since July 2021 for his involvement in peaceful demonstrations. (Photo courtesy of CSW)

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A Cuban Protestant pastor detained more than three months without trial may face a 10-year prison sentence, and two Baptist ministers held during the summer have been threatened with imprisonment if they participate in any further activity considered critical of the government.

Maridelegnis Carballo was informed Oct. 22 the government is seeking to impose a 10-year sentence on her husband, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a United Kingdom-based human rights organization focused on freedom of religion and conscience.

Cuban State Security detained her husband, Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo of the Monte de Sion Independent Church in Palma Soriano, after he was involved in peaceful protests on July 11.

He currently is being held at Boniato Maximum Security Prison after more than a month at the Versalles State Security facility, where he reportedly was beaten and urinated on by guards. He lost a tooth due to the severe beatings.

His wife of more than 20 years has been permitted only one 90-minute visit with her husband in more than three months, and he has been allowed only a few three-minute phone calls with his family.

“He is not a criminal; he is a man of God,” Maridelegnis Carballo told Christian Solidarity Worldwide. “I am very afraid for his life, for the terrible treatment to which he is being subjected and even now he is in a situation where he is totally unable to defend himself. They are violating everything. … My children and I plead for help, please. These are cries for help which we lift up to God and to you. He is in danger.”

Previously detained pastors harassed by authorities

Yarian Sierrra (left) and Yeremi Blanco from the Berean Baptist Mission in Matanza were detained nearly two weeks in Cuba. (Facebook Photo via CSW)

The day before Maridelegnis Carballo received word about her husband’s potential 10-year sentence, two Baptist ministers received warnings from Cuban State Security about the consequences if they engage in protests or criticism of the government.

Yéremi Blanco Ramírez and Yarian Sierra Madrigal, who are associated with William Carey Biblical Seminary, were released July 24 after being detained incommunicado nearly two weeks, first in a women’s prison in Matanzas and then in a state security facility.

On Sept. 1, the two ministers were informed they would be fined but not face a prison sentence for their involvement in the nationwide July 11 protests.

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However, the pair were summoned by State Security Oct. 21 and forced to sign an Acta de Advertencia, a legal document justifying their arrest and imprisonment that could be used against them in the case of any future offenses.

Mervyn Thomas, founder of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, called for the release of Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo and for the government to stop its harassment of other religious leaders engaged in free speech and peaceful protests.

“We share Maridilegnis Carballo’s disappointment in learning that the Cuban government will be seeking to impose a 10-year prison sentence on Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, and are horrified, if not surprised, to learn of the inhumane treatment he has been subjected to while in prison,” Thomas said.

“We renew our demand that the Cuban government drop all charges and immediately release Pastor Rosales Fajardo and cease its harassment of Pastors Sierra Madrigal and Blanco Ramírez, as well as other religious leaders who are doing nothing more than attempting to exercise their right to peacefully and freely express themselves, a right that is inextricably linked with freedom of religion or belief.”

Several weeks ago, Christian Solidarity Worldwide presented a petition with more than 2,000 signatures to Cuban Ambassador Barbara Montalva Alvarez at the country’s embassy in London, demanding the release of Rosales Fajardo.

Other religious leaders involved in the nationwide peaceful demonstrations on July 11—including Yusniel Pérez Montejo, a minister affiliated with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba—likewise were detained and interrogated by authorities.

In August, Amnesty International reported Cuban authorities “scaled-up a decades-long policy of repression that criminalizes peaceful protest and imprisons and ill-treats Cubans from all walks of life simply for expressing their views.”

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