The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has announced that Cuba’s communist regime has released Pastor Ramón Rigal from prison.
As CBN News has reported, Rigal and his wife Ayda Espósito were put in prison in April of last year for homeschooling their children out of concern for the promotion of socialism and atheism in Cuban public schools.
The couple was later sentenced for crimes including “other acts against the normal development of a minor.” Espósito was released from prison this past April.
Rigal was sentenced to two years, accused of committing acts against the normal development of his children along with illicit association since his church is not registered with the government.
While the couple served their sentence their two children remained at home without their parents and without any schooling.
“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,” said USCIRF Commissioner James 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.”
The pastors had previously served one year of house arrest for homeschooling in 2017. The couple’s children were completing their education online through a free program offered by a private Christian school in Guatemala known as the International Hebron School.
Independent Journalist Still Held for ‘Disobedience’
Meanwhile, independent journalist Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces still remains in prison. Quinones was detained for trying to cover the couple’s trial, then was sentenced for the crime of “disobedience.”
Cuban authorities also have harassed other independent journalists who report on religious freedom—including Yoe Suárez—and have threatened them with criminal charges and fines under Decree Law 370, which regulates the use of the internet.
“USCIRF once again calls for the immediate release of Jesus Quinones Haces and the end to harassment of independent journalists who report on religious freedom,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department maintain Cuba on its Special Watch List. USCIRF recently released a policy update detailing religious freedom conditions in Cuba during 2019.