Cuba sentences lawyer to jail for trying to help homeschoolers

By WND Staff

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A lawyer in Cuba who tried to defend a family imprisoned by the totalitarian government for homeschooling has been sentenced himself, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The world’s premier homeschool advocate said Roberto de Jesus Quinones Haces was sentenced to hard labor for trying to provide legal advice to Ramon and Adiva Rigal, who were imprisoned for homeschooling their children, ages 9 and 13.

The municipal court in Guantanamo determined Haces was guilty of “resistance and disobedience.”

The family’s case attracted the attention of an international watchdog established by Congress.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said regarding the prosecution of the Rigals that Cuba is “singling out religious leaders and activists for harassment and discrimination.”

“We urge the Cuban government to immediately cease all intimidation tactics and release Pastor Rigal and his wife along with others detained for homeschooling their children according to their religious beliefs,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga.

HSLDA said at the time the prosecution could be retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and called them “prisoners of conscience.”

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s senior counsel and director of Global Outreach, said the parents were jailed “because their sincerely held religious convictions required that they homeschool their children – something that happens every day for two million children in the United States.”

Ramon was sentenced to two and a half years prison, and his wife one and a half years.

The commission explained the Rigals had been homeschooling because of their religious beliefs and concern about Cuban schools’ “promotion of socialism and atheism.”

The commission also noted the government’s prosecution of Haces.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. It annually provides to the president and secretary of state a list of “countries of particular concern” that systematically persecute religious believer and recommends penalties, such as economic sanctions.

Haces is appealing his sentence and remains at liberty pending a decision.

Donnelly said HSLDA “condemns the jailing of attorney Haces for seeking to assist jailed Cuban homeschooling parents Ramon and Adiya Rigal.”

“Cuba’s imprisonment of this lawyer and these parents ranks among the worst kind of persecution. Parents have a fundamental human right to decide how their children are educated. The right to independent legal representation is also a minimum of any country that follows the rule of law,” he said.

“We call on Cuba to release the Rigal family and attorney Haces. We call on the Trump administration to do whatever they can to assist these individuals and to acknowledge this treatment as persecution.”

HSLDA has created an online resource for people to urge action by the U.S. Congress.

Other countries that crack down on homeschooling include Germany, which has never abandoned a law dating back to its Nazi era. In some Scandinavian countries, authorities have taken children away from their parents over the issue.

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