by Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
HAVANA, CUBA (Worthy News)-- A Cuban pastor who was imprisoned and then granted asylum by the United States was denied permission to leave Cuba.
Omar Gude Perez was granted conditional liberty by Cuba earlier this year after serving three years of a six and a half year sentence; to date, he is only the second high-profile protestant pastor to be granted asylum in the US.
As the leader of a growing network of independent churches in Cuba, Perez was convicted during a summary trial on trumped-up charges of "falsification of documents" based on accusations that he had illegally taken his stepfather's surname. However, while determining the conditons of his release, official records revealed that Perez's legal surname was indeed Gude Perez, contradicting the court ruling that led to his conviction.
Perez, who was imprisoned in May 2008, received news that he and his family were granted asylum on July 18, but two days later, Cuban emigration officials in Camaguey informed them that they will not be issued exit visas because Perez still needed to serve the remainder of his sentence, forcing them all to remain in Cuba until 2014. During this time, as part of the terms of his conditional liberty, Perez is prohibited from any pastoral ministry while his movements are severely restricted.
"We were relieved to hear that the Gude family has been granted asylum, but strongly condemn the Cuban government’s petty decision to deny Pastor Gude and his family the right to leave the country," said Christian Solidariry Worldwide Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston. "Their decision to leave the country was reluctantly made after years of intense persecution on the part of the authorities. Unless the Cuban government is prepared to cease its persecution of the family and to allow them to work as pastors openly and without restrictions, they must afford them the same right they have granted so many others and allow them to go into exile."