Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López, a 20 year-old religious freedom defender, has been expelled from the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical University in Havana, following an advocacy visit to the United States.
On 8 May, Llerena López was informed by his head of year that he would not be able to continue studying history in the humanities department at the university.
He was told that the expulsion was due to excessive absences from classes within the last month, however, Llerena López states that he had not registered the number of absences which would justify such action and that the real reason behind his expulsion is his human rights activism. He has been told that he will receive an official document regarding the conditions of the expulsion in the coming weeks.
Llerena López was interrogated and threatened by security agents on 27 April in Abel Santamaria International Airport in Santa Clara following a visit to the US which included advocacy meetings arranged by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in Washington, DC to raise concerns about ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba. Llerena López was part of a delegation from the Patmos Institute, an independent civil society organisation in Cuba which defends freedom of religion or belief and promotes inter-religious dialogue.
Llerena López’s expulsion comes alongside wave of expulsions from the Marta Abreu University of Las Villas of teachers and students who are linked to independent civil society organisations, including the daughter of another Patmos Institute leader.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We are increasingly concerned by the treatment of Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López since his return to Cuba on 27 April. Cuba regularly touts its education system as an example of the success of the Revolution, but uses that same education system as way to punish those, like Fếlix Yuniel who think differently, denying their right to continue in their studies. CSW calls on the Cuban Government to immediately allow Fếlix Yuniel to resume his studies and to begin addressing its ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We also urge the international community to continue closely monitor this situation and raise concern with the Cuban government.”