Christian leaders are calling on the communist government of Cuba to immediately release Pastor Karel Parra Rosabal, who heads an unregistered church and was arrested on false charges of “hoarding.” He's been held in detention for 11 days.
Rosabal, who leads the Fuego y Dinámica Apostolic Church, was arrested by police in the town of Jobabo in Las Tunas on Jan. 12 and was told he was being arrested “so that you learn that illegal churches in Cuba are not allowed,” according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The pastor was kept incommunicado during the first two days of detention and was on hunger strike, CSW said, adding: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, accusations of ‘hoarding’ have been used by the Cuban authorities on occasion to target religious leaders, many of whom have played important roles in providing resources for their local communities.”
After searching his house, police told the pastor that he was being arrested for hoarding, which means possessing too many tools without proof of purchase, according to Premier Christian News.
The police seized equipment worth about $1,900 from the pastor’s house. The pastor says he bought all the equipment legally and can show the receipts.
The Apostolic movement has many churches in Cuba, but the Castro regime has listed the denomination as illegal and banned it from registering as a religious group. That appears to be the reason why the pastor was targeted.
“The detention of Pastor Karel Parra Rosabal and the trumped-up charges against him are the latest case in a long record of the Cuban government targeting the pastors of unregistered churches for harassment and imprisonment,” CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said.
“We call on the authorities to allow Pastor Parra Rosabal to return to his wife and three young children and to allow him to continue his pastoral work and maintain his small business, which not only sustains his family in a difficult economic climate but also provides a valuable service to the community in an area of the country where transport options are severely limited,” Stangl added.
Rosabal's trial was to begin on Thursday but was postponed to give the police more time to investigate. He is likely to be under arrest for another week.
The Cuban government amended its Constitution in 1992, declaring it a secular state, instead of an atheist state, partially allowing religious activities. Since then, the percentage of the country's population that identifies as Christian has grown.