The trial of Reverend Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo lasted just two days. From 20-21 December 2021, only two witnesses were allowed to speak in his defence, while the prosecution brought 17 witnesses against him. The trial concluded with Pastor Lorenzo’s conviction, followed by over three months of silence from the Cuban authorities.
The pastor and his wife, Maridilegnis, endured an agonising wait for his sentencing – unaware that this life-changing decision had already been made: Pastor Lorenzo had been sentenced to seven years in prison on false charges linked to his participation in peaceful protests on 11 July 2021.
The truth eventually came to light because the Cuban government wrote a public letter to the United Nations on 1 March 2022, responding to an official request for information on Pastor Lorenzo's case made in November 2021.
The letter stated that Pastor Lorenzo had been sentenced to eight years in prison, and it fell to our joint Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl to break the devastating news to Maridilegnis. Maridilegnis then called her husband to tell him.
A month later, the family finally received an official letter from the government stating that his sentence was seven years. We don’t know why this is one year less than they had told the UN, but the sentence is still completely unjust and unwarranted.
A letter full of lies
The letter to the UN is full of contradictions and unfounded claims of violence as it explains that Pastor Lorenzo was convicted of ‘public disorder’, ‘criminal incitement’, ‘disrespect’ and ‘assault’. ‘He did not use violence against anyone and that was made more than clear,’ said Maridilegnis. ‘They know that we are all witnesses to their lies.’
There is, however, overwhelming evidence that the Cuban authorities were the real aggressors on 11 July. Live footage and photos show armed police and Black Beret paramilitaries attacking unarmed, peaceful protestors in the street; Pastor Lorenzo is shown being held in a chokehold.
A campaign of harassment
Harassment and mistreatment have followed Pastor Lorenzo into prison, including a five-day period in solitary confinement shortly before Easter. This was after he complained to guards that he hadn’t been allowed to attend Sunday services for several weeks. (In May he was finally allowed to attend.) As he defied orders to stop sharing his faith with other prisoners, prison administrators feared that he was becoming a leader within the prison, so they placed him in isolation.
Meanwhile, Maridilegnis was also threatened with prison in connection with a prayer event in support of the families of the unjustly imprisoned, that was due to take place at the end of April – even though she was not the organiser. The organisers were eventually forced to postpone the event after receiving repeated threats from the government.
Letters of hope
Yet even amid such unrelenting injustice, God is still turning darkness into light. Pastor Lorenzo’s fellow inmates have sent several letters to Maridilegnis, describing how he has touched their lives while in prison. One of them wrote:
‘I want to thank our Lord for putting Pastor Lorenzo Rosales on our path because he has been a blessing for us. He has been the instrument that the Lord chose for the truth to come into our lives so that many could come out of the darkness into the light.’
These letters are a testament to the true character of Pastor Lorenzo. Far from the violent criminal the authorities have made him out to be, this is a man of faith and integrity, who is still living out his calling as a pastor, even from behind bars.
You might be interested to see all the different ways that CSW has advocated for Pastor Lorenzo. Since 1 September 2021, we have:
- Published ten articles and press releases on Pastor Lorenzo’s case that were covered in 13 different media outlets including Premier, plus several TV and radio interviews.
- Put high-level officials in several embassies in Havana in direct contact with Pastor Lorenzo’s family so they can monitor the situation directly.
- Coordinated an open letter on Pastor Lorenzo’s case, signed by seven Members of the European Parliament and submitted to the Cuban Embassy in Brussels.
- Led a campaign that mobilised 7,186 people to contact the Cuban Ambassador to the UK, calling for Pastor Lorenzo’s release. We also held a protest outside the Cuban Embassy in London.
We’re still campaigning for Pastor Lorenzo’s freedom. Are you with us? Go to csw.org.uk/pastorlorenzo to join the campaign.