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World News

Cuban pastor running unregistered church released from jail

by Tola Mbakwe

A Cuban pastor who leads an unregistered church has been released from police custody after spending ten days in detention.

Pastor Parra Rosabal was freed on 22nd January after being arrested for hoarding.

He leads the unregistered Fuego y Dinámica Apostolic Church in Jobabo, and as is common in Cuba, he earns a supplementary income by running a small business, a legally registered bicycle repair workshop out of his home. 

Persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said he was arrested and falsely accused of the crime of ‘hoarding’ after police searched his home and demanded 50,000 pesos (approximately £1,1771) worth of repair equipment.

CSW believes that Pastor Parra Rosabal was targeted due to his involvement in the Apostolic Movement, a network of relatively large and independent churches across the island.

The Cuban government has refused to allow Apostolic Movement churches to register, effectively making them illegal.  When he was arrested, Cuban police told the pastor that he was being arrested “so that you learn that illegal churches in Cuba are not allowed.” 

On 25th January, the Jobabbo Prosecutor’s office confirmed that it would be dropping the charges and would not pursue a legal case against Pastor Rosabal.

He was also finally allowed to present proof of purchase documents for his work tools, which had been seized during his arrest. However, the equipment has been  returned to him. The authorities have given no indication if or when they plan to return the tools and CSW sources have confirmed that the process of return is often lengthy and can last months. The loss of his equipment means that Pastor Rosabal is unable to run his business and will face serious difficulty in providing for his family.

CSW’s head of advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: “We were pleased to learn of Pastor Karel Parra Rosabal’s unexpected release from prison.

“The decision of the prosecutor to decline to pursue the case shows that he never should have been detained in the first place. CSW remains deeply concerned that the authorities have refused to return his equipment to him. This arbitrary confiscation has a direct and serious negative impact on his ability to earn a livelihood, which not only helps to feed his family but also provides a critical service to his community.

“We call on the authorities to immediately return all of his equipment and to cease their harassment of Pastor Parra Rosabal.”

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