Cuba’s internal intelligence service detained an independent pastor and freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) defender in Havana in the early hours of 31 October and issued a summons to a second pastor for later in the same morning.
Alejandro Hernández Cepero, founder and pastor of an independent Protestant Christian group called the Alia Movement, also known as ‘The Return to the Good Path’, was detained and taken from his home by a Department of State Security (DSE) agent who identified himself as ‘Lieutenant Raúl’. Pastor Hernández Cepero had received a summons by telephone at 6pm on 30 October and complied the same evening at 8pm before being detained the following morning.
Sources told CSW that a second pastor, Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo, who works with a Protestant Christian denomination known as Rehobot, also received a summons on 30 October to present himself to the authorities in Havana at 10am EST the following day.
CSW received information indicating that two religious leaders have been targeted by the DSE because of their involvement in an initiative to organise roundtables to discuss FoRB in different parts of the island. A first set of roundtables was held on 3 October in Havana and El Cristo, Santiago. A second set is scheduled for today with representatives from a wide range of religious groups, including registered and unregistered associations, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Afro-Cuban religious groups having received invitations to attend.
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: ‘We are extremely concerned at the detention of Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero early on the morning of 31 October and call for his immediate and unconditional release. CSW is similarly concerned for Pastor Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo’s well-being. While the Cuban government claims that it respects freedom of religion or belief, a fundamental right enshrined in international law, its internal intelligence apparatus harasses and arbitrarily detains religious leaders simply for their participation in roundtables to build bridges between religious groups and to discuss this right. We urge members of the international community to condemn the Cuban government’s actions and to closely monitor the case of these two religious leaders and all of those involved in the promotion of FoRB.’