Cuba has released Ramon Rigal, a Christian Pastor who spent over a year in prison for homeschooling his children.
Rigal, who was arrested together with his wife, Ayda Expósito in April 2019, was serving a two-year term and was previously scheduled to be released in 2021. Although it’s unclear why he was granted early release, it comes as the government has released thousands of prisoners in recent months to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Pastor Ramon’s release was confirmed by Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a missionary who was arrested several times by the Cuban government before he and his family arrived in the U.S. as refugees in 2016.
“You can tell all the brothers who have been praying for us that we are very grateful for your prayers and all of the support you have given us,” Rigal said in a statement shared through Barroso. “I know those prayers came to the throne of God and answered them. It’s beautiful to see how even if they don’t know me personally they have cared about me and my family, putting him into practice.′′
According to USCIRF, Rigal and his wife were arrested for homeschooling their children after they expressed concerns about the public schools’ promotion of socialism and atheism.
The couple was later sentenced for “acts against the normal development of a minor.”
Expósito was released from prison in April 2020.
“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,” USCIRF Commissioner James Carr said in a statement.
“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.”
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