released him from prison amid international pressure, the church leader and supporters said.

"Pastor Carlos Lamelas was unexpectedly freed without being charged on Monday and was allowed to return home to his family in Havana," Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a well-informed advocacy group, told BosNewsLife.

Pastor Lamelas was quoted as saying that 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. 

"Our feet are on the ground, but our hearts are in the clouds," Lamelas said in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife. He stressed 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, he said in a statement released by CSW.


There was no immediate reason given for his release and the pastor and his legal situation remains unclear, CSW cautioned. 

"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," said CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.

Pastor Lamelas was detained February 20, 2006 and was originally told he would be charged with attempting to aid Cubans emigrating illegally. His friends and family linked his imprisonment however to his calls for "increased respect for religious freedom in Cuba."

An ordained minister of the Church of God congregation Lamelas was involved in church planting. His troubles apparently began in 2004 while serving as president of the denomination’s General Assembly of ministers when Lamelas moved his family to Havana.


Lamelas resisted what he considered inappropriate government interference in church affairs and refused to sign what amounted to a loyalty pledge to the Castro regime, while challenging as "unconstitutional" certain controls over church activities, church sources said.

In January of 2005, just two months after the Church of God annual convention overwhelmingly endorsed Lamelas for a second term as president, the national board of directors reportedly voted to oust him from that position and expel him from the church. Dozens of fellow ministers who questioned the move and expressed support for Lamelas were also expelled, without appeal, Christian sources said.

Cuba’s director of Religious Affairs reportedly endorsed the disciplinary action against Lamelas,  move that aroused suspicions among church officials of government complicity in the affair. It remained unclear Friday, June 30, what role the Religious Affairs department played in Lamelas’ imprisonment.  

While in prison, he was reportedly held in a cell with a number of other common prisoners and not allowed into the open air for the duration of his imprisonment. "His health suffered as a result," CSW claimed.


He was allowed weekly, but closely monitored, visits from his wife, and just one five-minute-visit from his lawyer, rights investigators said. His two young daughters, ages 12 and 5, were reportedly unable to have any contact with their father throughout his imprisonment. 

Thomas the pastor’s case has underscored concerns 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."

Some activists believe there are at least over 300 people jailed for their political or religious beliefs in the Communist island, including many Christians. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has denied human rights abuses and described the prisoners and dissidents and "counter revolutionaries" and "mercenaries of the United States." (With reports from Cuba and BosNewsLife Research) 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here