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Cuban Christian detained twice in 4 months after investigating religious freedom violations

Christian Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre handed himself in to Camagüey police on Tuesday after receiving a verbal summons from the authorities.

According to reports from local journal 'La Hora de Cuba,' family members and friends gathered outside the station after hearing nothing from him since he was placed in custody.

Officers told the group Izaguirre was being investigated and would be held incommunicado for four days but refused to give any further information on his detainment or his well-being.

When Izaguirre's wife, Yusleysi Gil Mauricio, entered the station to ask about the charges against him, she was reportedly "threatened and insulted" by three state agents, and told her husband would be "judged for being a counter-revolutionary".

Izaguirre who has documented over 60 violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) this year, was previously detained for four days in July, after meeting with members of the Ladies in White movement - who have been forcibly detained and prevented from attending church services and other religious activities by state authorities.

Speaking to freedom chairty Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) after the incident, Izaguirre reported that he was "freed without any explanation - just as they had arrested me".

Government attacks on FoRB and pressure on religious leaders have increased significantly since the adoption of a new constitution which severely weakened language on FoRB and freedom of conscience in February this year.

The president of the Eastern Baptist Convention, one of Cuba's largest protestant denominations, and a founding member of the Cuban Evangelical Alliance, was prevented from boarding a plane on route to the EA's General Assembly in Indonesia and told he had been banned from leaving the country.

Other prominent Protestant leaders, including the leaders of the Evangelical League and the Methodist Church of Cuba, both also founding members of the Cuban Evangelical Alliance, and Pastor Alain Toledano Valiente of the Apostolic Movement, have also been placed on a travel ban list, supposedly for reasons of national security.

CSW say they are "deeply concerned" for Izaguirres' well being and are calling for his immediate release.

 Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl, said: "We call on the Cuban government to release him without charge immediately. Ricardo has dedicated himself to investigating and documenting violations of freedom of religion or belief experienced by people of all faiths across the country.

"Rather than attempting to criminalise this peaceful human rights work, the Cuban government should instead focus on improving its FoRB record and upholding the rights of its citizens to practice their religion or belief without interference from the state. We urge the Cuban government to lift the travel ban on Cuban religious leaders and human rights defenders without delay."

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