Apostle Alain Toledano Valiente, a prominent leader in the Apostolic Movement in Cuba, was summoned to appear at the La Motorizada Unit #3 Police Station at 9am on Wednesday 25 September. Toledano Valiente, who leads Emanuel Church in Santiago de Cuba, has received at least 17 police summons since 1 August.
The commander of La Motorizada Unit #3, who identified himself as ‘Lorenzo’, informed Toledano Valiente that he is accused of the crime of ‘disobedience’ because of a women’s event his church celebrated in August. During a previous appearance at the police station on 7 August, Commander Lorenzo told Toledano Valiente that he would be charged with disobedience and risk imprisonment if his church went ahead with the planned ‘Deborah Conference’ the following day. Despite the threat, Emanuel Church went ahead with the event.
Commander Lorenzo referred the pastor to First Lieutenant Daniel González Clavel, of the El Micro: 3 El Salao police unit, where a formal accusation was lodged. Toledano Valiente reports that the authorities refused to give him a copy of the document, and that it was three hours before he was given a reference number for the case against him.
Toledano Valiente told CSW: “In Cuba, pastors are more at risk than criminals and bandits… since I have not fled into exile, they seek to put me in prison. I committed no crime, it had to be manufactured. My disobedience, according to them, is that I cannot meet with other pastors in the nation, I cannot meet with those in other cities, I cannot carry out any religious activity; that is to say they want me to stop being a pastor.”
In recent months Toledano Valiente has come under intense pressure. Over a period of four days in August, he was summoned to and interrogated at the La Motorizada Unit #3 Police Station three times in an attempt to force the cancellation of a youth event. The owners of the land where the church currently meets were also threatened and forced to sign a document prohibiting church services on their property.
In July, Toledano Valiente was stopped by government agents and prevented from boarding a flight to the US to attend the US State Department’s Ministerial on International Religious Freedom. He is still officially banned from leaving Cuba and his right to move freely within the country is also restricted.
CSW Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: “The Cuban government is criminalizing ordinary pastoral and religious activity. Pastor Toledano Valiente is being targeted simply because of his involvement in peaceful religious events. We call on the Cuban government to immediately cease all harassment of Pastor Toledano Valiente and other religious leaders, allowing them to travel freely in and outside the country, construct and register places of worship and hold peaceful religious events without interference from the state. CSW also calls on the international community to remind Cuba of its obligations especially in regard to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”