By BosNewsLife Americas Service
HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– Cuba has detained a leading Christian dissident over the weekend along with her husband and teenage son, who were also mistreated, to prevent them from attending Sunday morning church services, rights activists said Tuesday, March 20.
Caridad Caballero Batista, a member of the ‘Ladies in White’ who demand freedom for political prisoners, was detained with her family Friday March 16 in Holguin city while “they visited a local hospital to pick up results of a medical exam,” said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
They were reportedly held in a local prison facility until Monday morning, March 19.
The family has been prevented for over three months to visit a church, Christians said.
News of their imprisonment came amid reports that scores of other women across the island, the majority linked to the Ladies in White peaceful dissident group, were similarly prevented from attending Sunday morning mass.
Roadblocks were reportedly set up in some cities to prevent members of human rights or pro-democracy groups from accessing churches.
Caballero Batista was initially put into solitary confinement in “a bug-infested cell with no light and only a hole in the ground for sewage,” CSW claimed.
She was reportedly later moved to another isolation cell, where the lights were kept on at full strength 24-hours a day.
Her husband and son were put into separate cells together with common prisoners. Both suffered physical mistreatment, CSW said, adding that her husband, Esteban Sandez Suarez, was thrown twice against cement bunk beds and suffered severe bruising.
Their 19 year-old son Eric Sandez, who suffers from asthma and diabetes, “lost consciousness after being beaten by his fellow prisoners,” CSW said. “Eric was taken to the hospital clinic, where he was treated before being returned to the cell.”
“We are deeply concerned at the increasingly heavy handed tactics the government is using to prevent Caridad Caballero, her family and many others like them from simply attending religious services on a Sunday morning,” CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston told BosNewsLife.
Caridad Caballero Batista has been prevented by Cuban security agents from participating in any religious activity since the end of 2011, according to Christian rights activists.
She and her family have not been able to attend Sunday morning mass at the Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood of Holguin.
Government security agents have reportedly also stopped them from attending classes and bible studies necessary for their Catholic Confirmation.
Their church continues to offer the family “moral and spiritual support”, despite being targeted by security forces,
CABALLERO BATISTA THANKFUL
In published remarks Caballero Batista said she and her family are grateful for messages of support they have received from inside Cuba and around the world.
She noted attention in the international press to “…the situation, the repression against those of us who are trying to practice our faith. The government tries to impede us but we must continue down this path, the path of freedom.”
The dissident said she remained strong in her faith. “Christ came to give freedom to all. Just because we hold different beliefs to those who govern our country, they try to block us, to stop us from worshiping at our church.”
However, “We hold fast to our faith and we will continue to fight. We may not succeed but we will continue to try to attend church like good Christians,” she added in a statement distributed by CSW.
Johnston said he hoped that the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba this month would be “an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to improving the religious freedom situation” on the Communist-run island.
“Instead we are seeing the opposite take place. Once again, we urge the Cuban government to allow all Cubans, regardless of their political beliefs, to participate in religious services and join together with others of their faith, free from harassment.”
Cuba’s government denies a crackdown on dissidents.
It says those being targeted are mercenaries of the United States aimed at undermining the Revolution.