Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington
by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, May 05, 2017
SANTA CLARA, Cuba (BP) -- Religious liberty leaders are interceding on
behalf of a college student interrogated, threatened and charged with
public disorder by the Cuban government because of his work to expose
Christian persecution there.
Felix Yuniel Llerena López, far left, is shown with USCIRF commissioner
Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, center, and others during his April trip to
Capitol Hill to advocate for religious liberty in his native Cuba.
Photo from Twitter
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a
commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF), are advocating for the student, 20-year-old Felix Yuniel
Llerena López, who was arrested April 27 upon his return from a trip to
Cuban state security authorities made him sign an "Acta de Advertencia"
or pre-arrest warrant for public disorder, ordered him to appear in
court and also interrogated his mother, CSW said in a May 2 press release.
"We are extremely concerned about the government's treatment of Felix
Yuniel Llerena López upon his return to Cuba," CSW Chief Executive
Mervyn Thomas said in the press release. "Public accusations linking him
to terrorism are not only preposterous and unfounded, but also put his
family in danger. We call on the Cuban government to cease its
harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its ongoing
violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We
also urge the international community to closely monitor this situation."
Llerena, central region coordinator for the independent Patmos Institute
for religious freedom, was part of a Patmos delegation including
evangelical pastors who briefed USCIRF, the State Department and
non-governmental groups on religious freedom violations in Cuba, CSW
reported. Llerena is described as the only Christian in his family.
Arriaga, who met Llerena during his trip to Capitol Hill, has initiated
a Twitter campaign on the student's behalf -- @FelixLlerenaCUB. While
Llerena's current whereabouts were not disclosed, Arriaga said on a May
2 WORLD Radio broadcast that he remained in custody.
"He came to the United States briefly with a group of evangelical
pastors," Arriaga told WORLD Radio, "and after he met with the
commission members -- precisely because he met with the commission
members -- he flew back to Havana with great courage to again continue
to spread the Word of Gospel."
The exposure of Llerena's story will not only encourage him but will
also help deter the Cuban government from harming him, Arriaga told
WORLD Radio. She also encouraged Americans to call and email the Cuban
government directly, urging them to stop harassing people of faith.
"The fact that his name is known by Americans alone," she said,
"protects him in Cuba."
Llerena was detained just a day after USCIRF released its 2017 annual
report naming Cuba for the 14th consecutive year as a "Tier 2" country,
the USCIRF category that falls just short of countries described as the
world's most severe violators of religious liberty.
Other members of the Patmos delegation to Washington, CSW said, included
Apostolic Movement pastor Yiorvis Bravo Denis, Baptist church leaders
Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, and Baptist
theologian and former political prisoner Raudel Garcia Bringas. But
there was no word of whether they also had been interrogated upon their
return to Cuba.
Cuban authorities captured Llerena as he arrived at Abel Santamaria
International Airport in Santa Clara, CSW said in its press release.
"Llerena López reported that he was questioned aggressively by two
high-ranking state security officers, who appeared to have detailed
information about his activities while in the United States," CSW said.
"They told him, 'This is a country town; the people here don't know
anything about human rights and if one of these country peasants is made
to believe that you are going to commit a terrorist act, he is going to
cut you open with a machete, and later you won't be able to say that we
CSW describes the Patmos Institute as an independent group promoting
freedom of religion or belief and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
Common religious liberty offenses committed by the Cuban communist
government, USCIRF said in its 2017 report, include the harassment and
short-term detention of religious leaders and laity, demolition of
churches, threats to confiscate churches and the systematic restriction
of religious practice through laws and surveillance.
Source: Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington -