United States urges Cuba not to harass independent journalists
The US Commission for International Religious Freedom asks for the release of pastor Jesus Quinones, and the right of Cuban parents to “raise their children pursuant to their own faith”.
USCIRF, Evangélico Digital · HAVANA · 15 JULY 2020 · 16:00 CET
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has welcomed the release of pastor Ramón Rigal in Cuba.
Pastor Rigal was detained on April 16, 2019 with his wife Ayda Expósito for homeschooling their children over concerns about Cuban schools’ indoctrination against Christian values, as well as the bullying their children suffered for speaking about their faith.
The parents were later sentenced for crimes including “other acts against the normal development of a minor”. Ayda was released from prison last April.
USCIRF: “Cuban government must allow Cuban parents to raise their children pursuant to their own faith”
“While we welcome the release of Pastor Rigal and are thrilled that he is reunited with his family, this was not the first time that Pastor Rigal and his wife were arrested in relation to their religious beliefs”, USCIRF Commissioner James Carr, said.
According to Carr, “the Cuban government must immediately cease harassing this couple and allow all Cuban parents, including the Rigals, to raise their children pursuant to their own faith”.
Cuban journalists persecuted
Meanwhile, independent journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces still remains in prison. Quiñones was arrested for trying to do a media coverage of the couple's trial, and was later sentenced for the crime of "disobedience".
Cuban authorities have also harassed other independent journalists who report on religious freedom, including Evangelical Focus author and international writer Yoe Suárez , and threatened them with criminal charges and fines under the Decree Law 370, which regulates the use of the Internet.
“USCIRF once again calls for the immediate release of Jesus Quiñones Haces and the end to harassment of independent journalists who report on religious freedom”, USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava pointed out.
Cuba should be mantained on Special Watch List
The USCIRF is “an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad”, the Committee says on its website.
It “makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief”.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF “recommended that the State Department maintain Cuba on its Special Watch List”.