Cuban Pastor Released Without Charge After 126 Days Detention

Friday, June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- After 126 days in prison, a Cuban pastor has been released without charge. Pastor Carlos Lamelas was unexpectedly freed without being charged on Monday and was allowed to return home to his family in Havana.

Pastor Lamelas informed CSW that the prison guards told him to prepare to leave the prison as he waited for his wife to arrive at the prison for her weekly official visit. They were not given a reason for his release and they are still awaiting clarification of his legal situation.

Pastor Lamelas was detained on 20 February 2006 and was originally told he would be charged with attempting to aid Cubans emigrating illegally. Sources close to Lamelas, however, pointed to his calls for increased respect for religious freedom in Cuba as the real reason behind his imprisonment.

While in prison, he was held in a cell with a number of other common prisoners. He was not allowed into the open air for the duration of his imprisonment and his health suffered as a result. He was allowed weekly visits from his wife, but these were closely monitored and they were unable to speak freely. He was only allowed one 5 minute visit from his lawyer.

His two young daughters, ages 12 and 5, were unable to have any contact with their father throughout his imprisonment.

Pastor Lamelas said he was overwhelmed at the amount of support he received in and outside of Cuba. He found a "mountain" of letters and cards of support from around the world upon his return home. "Our feet are on the ground, but our hearts are in the clouds," he told CSW.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive at CSW, said "We were overjoyed to learn of the release of Pastor Lamelas and of his reunion with his family. We remain concerned, however, that his legal situation has not been clarified and that he has still not been given a reason for his detention. CSW also remains deeply concerned at the overall human rights situation in Cuba and the increasing restrictions on religious freedom. While we are grateful that Pastor Lamelas has been freed, it is important to remember that he never should have been imprisoned in the first place. We call on the international community to maintain pressure on the Cuban government to improve its human rights record and to guarantee the right of religious liberty."

CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.