Cuban authorities are threating a church leader with a criminal investigation for holding church services.
Alain Toledano Valiente is a leader in the Apostolic Movement, an unregistered Protestant denomination in Cuba.
On the morning of 4 October, two policemen and an investigator arrived at the church and informed the property owner that they were there to ‘reconstruct the facts’ at the scene of the ‘crime’ in light of the pending criminal charges against the pastor.
Although they did not present a warrant, the police entered the property and spent two hours measuring and making drawings despite the protests of the property owner. The police reportedly described Pastor Toledano Valiente as a simple criminal and said he would be tried and convicted.
Five days earlier, authorities falsely accused Pastor Toledano Valiente of the crime of "spreading diseases" after an Emmanuel Church service on Sunday 29 August. Pastor Toledano Valiente told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that his church is maintaining social distancing measures and also pointed out that the police who carried out the reconstruction did not follow required Covid-19 protocols.
The church has been persecuted by the government for many years, but this has intensified lately due to the local political turmoil and the hardship that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the country.
In the last two weeks, eight members of his congregation have been interrogated by police.
"We have been under a frontal attack by the regime against all our people for several weeks now and I have worship team singers, I have leaders, I have pastors who are being subpoenaed and interrogated on a daily basis,” Pastor Toledano told Radio Marti.
In the last month, Pastor Toledano Valiente received two police summons related to holding church services illegally.
The police claim he does not have the necessary authorisations to hold services, even though the pastor has presented written permissions from the Ministry of Justice to the contrary. Last month, he was informed that a formal criminal case had been opened against him and that he must await trial under ‘supervised liberty’ with a precautionary measure that forbids him from leaving the province or the country.
The pastor is also required to appear twice a week at the police station.
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: “The accusations against Pastor Toledano Valiente are entirely unfounded, as evidenced by his provision of relevant permissions issued by the Ministry of Justice which allow him to hold church services legally. This incident is just the latest in years of ongoing police harassment of him and his church. We call on the Cuban government to cease all harassment of Pastor Toledano Valiente, to drop the pending criminal investigation against him, and to allow him and his church to worship freely and in peace.”