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Three Protestant pastors still detained in Cuba but Catholic Priest released after being beaten

by Cara Bentley
Pastor Yarian Sierra (L) and Pastor Yeremi Blanco (R) CSW - Banner image
Pastor Yarian Sierra (L) and Pastor Yeremi Blanco (R) CSW

The leader of a Cuban Christian seminary has called for the immediate release of two pastors who were detained on Sunday evening following protests across Cuba. A member of a Baptist denomination is also missing. 

The demonstrations in several cities and towns in Cuba were some of the biggest displays of anti-government sentiment seen in years. The country is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, partly as a consequence of US sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration.

Many young people took part in Sunday's demonstrations in Havana.

According to Reverend Jatniel Peréz, president of the William Carey Biblical Seminary, Protestant pastors Yéremi Blanco Ramírez and Yarian Sierra are being held in a wing of the women's prison in poor conditions in Matanzas, on the north coast of Cuba, not far from Havana. 

Reverend Peréz, who has himself been blocked from leaving his home by the police, said that the men were warned that they would be held for at least a week. 

The wives of the two men were able to visit them on Monday to bring them basic hygiene items but Reverend Peréz said it would not last for seven days and that he is concerned for the health of one of them. 

In a post on Facebook, Reverend Peréz stated "I only ask one question: why have two pastors been imprisoned as if they were criminals for the simple act of watching a peaceful demonstration? I hold the government of Cuba and its president, Miguel Díaz Canel, responsible for the health of pastor Yéremi Blanco, who suffers from bronchial asthma and for any chance of catching the covid in that unhygienic place. 

"I urgently demand the release of Yéremi Blanco and Yarian Sierra. We ask all international organisations to please support us in calling for the urgent release of these two pastors. We fear for their lives."
 
At least two other religious leaders were detained on Sunday as well, including Father Castor José Álvarez Devesa, a Catholic priest who was beaten and detained, and Reverend Yusniel Pérez Montejo, a member of the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba who was detained in the province of Santiago. 

Father Castor was released on the afternoon of 12th July and is recovering in his home. The Baptist minister's whereabouts are still unknown. 

A number of protesters and religious leaders have been arrested and some have been beaten. Many areas continue to be without electricity or internet after the government cut access. 

Religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide's head of advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: "CSW calls on the Cuban government to immediately release Pastor Sierra, Pastor Blanco Ramírez and Pastor Montejo Pérez and to cease its harassment of Reverend Peréz. 

"We welcome news of the release of Father Castor, though we note that he never should have been detained as none of these men have committed any crime. We call on the Cuban authorities to hold those responsible for the assault on Father Castor to account, and to release all others who were detained in relation to the exercise of their fundamental rights immediately and without conditions."
 

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