14ymedio, Havana, 23 April 2019 — The evangelical pastors Ramón Rigal and Ayda Expósito were sentenced, on Monday in Guantánamo, to two years and 18 months in prison, respectively, for not wanting to send their children to public school.
In the midst of a strong police operation both were sentenced for the crime of “acts contrary to the normal development of the child.” In addition, Rigal was convicted of “illicit association and instigation to commit a crime,” according to the daughter of both, Ruth Rigal Expósito, 13 years old.
The pastors were arrested last Tuesday when plainclothes officers showed up at their home and conducted a search in which they confiscated a computer and numerous school supplies.
The closest relatives and friends, including the daughter, were not allowed to attend the trial and the authorities detained the lawyer and independent journalist Roberto Jesus Quiñones Haces when he tried to cover the trial against Rigal and Expósito.
In the next 72 hours, the sentence will be made final and the pastors must go to prison while their defense lawyer appeals the decision of the court, said family sources.
In 2017 Rigal and Expósito Rigal were convicted for not sending their children to school; at that time they were 7 and 11 years of age . The pastor was sentenced to one year of correctional work without internment while his wife had to spend a year in house arrest.
The London NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide showed concern about the case and said in a statement that the conviction violated the right of parents to give their children an education according to their principles.
Rigal and Expósito refuse to submit their children to public education managed entirely by the State, because they believe that it is tainted by intense ideological propaganda and because in state classrooms atheism is promoted.
In 2017 Hebron College, a Christian institution based in Guatemala, began to advise them to teach the classes at home with compact discs, printed material and some sessions through the internet.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) condemned “the manipulated legal process” against the two evangelical pastors for only seeking “for their children an educational model different from the one forced by the totalitarian State on the island: to educate them at home.”
The independent organization based in Madrid defends “the natural right of parents to choose the type of education they want for their children” and ensures that in the state classrooms “children are trained under a personality cult of Fidel and Raúl Castro, and the training plans include political subjects and even military training.”
“We condemn the judicial farce, the severity of the sentence and demand their immediate release,” concludes the document signed by Alejandro González Raga, executive director of the OCDH.
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