Editor’s note: this story has been updated to indicate that the status of charges against the two officers remains unclear.
A Vancouver reverend is speaking out on behalf of two Metro Vancouver police officers who have been detained in Cuba since the spring on possible sexual assault charges.
Reverend Blake Field with the Wilson Heights United Church has been to visit officers Mark Simms of the Vancouver Police Department and Jordan Long of the Port Moody Police Department and argues that their case is being handled unfairly.
The pair were on a one-week vacation to the popular tourist town of Varadero back in March when the incident was alleged to have happened.
Simms allegedly engaged in sexual activity with a 17-year-old girl from Ontario.
Sources close to the case have told Global News that Simms is now facing a potential charge of rape, which carries a sentence of up to seven years. Sources have also told Global News that Long is facing a potential charge of accessory to rape, which could carry a sentence of four years.
The two men were arrested and spent a week in jail after the girl lodged a complaint with Cuban police. They were subsequently released but have been barred from leaving the country.
LISTEN: Reverend Blake Field discusses his trip to visit two B.C. police officers
Field, who is fluent in Spanish, visited the men in July when he learned that they were given just five days to prepare their defence in a language they don’t understand.
“I did not go to help personal friends. I went because I was called on to do my job, which is pastoral care — critical, pastoral counselling to two people who were experiencing the most traumatic crisis of their lives,” Blake told CKNW’s Back on the Beat.
Blake, who admits he doesn’t have a legal background, pored over the documents and said he was shocked at what he read.
WATCH: Update on Metro Vancouver police officers detained in Cuba
“This is not a situation where one side says one thing and the other side says something else, and someone who has legal expertise and the authority to do so makes the decision about what the truth is,” he said.
“(There is) irrefutable, obvious and undeniable proof that the allegations that were made against them were false.”
Global Affairs Canada said consular officials in Varadero remain in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing services to Canadians facing travel restrictions. It said it could not comment further on the matter.
Security expert Leo Knight with Prime Time Crime suggested the real delay in processing the case could be linked to friction between Canada and the island nation.
“Our embassy and the embassy of the United States (were) being acoustically blasted a little over a year ago in Havana, and then the resulting outcry from both of our countries to the Cuban government, who are denying any responsibility,” he said.
WATCH: B.C. police officers detained in Cuba in connection with alleged sexual assault face criminal charges
The VPD has not confirmed the identity of the officer in question and says that, while it has not been in contact with Cuban authorities, it is monitoring the case. The PMPD could not be reached for comment.
In a previous interview with Global News, Pedro Pablo Isla Canizares — a civil lawyer with 30 years of experience in Cuba — explained that in the Cuban system, charges are only laid at the end of an investigation.
Cuban investigators had 60 days to present their findings to a prosecutor, he explained, and a health test had to be conducted on the alleged victim.
It is unclear when a trial may actually take place or what the current status of the charges is.
B.C.’s Office of the POlice Complaint Commissioner says regardless of the outcome the two men will still face an investigation into potential misconduct under the Police Act when they return to Canada.
WATCH: New details on arrests of two Vancouver area police officers in Cuba
Church members have been fundraising to help the two officers cover their living expenses, as the two men have been living in a hotel for close to seven months. Parishioners have also been lobbying to have the men brought home.
“It’s a very frightening situation that I think Canadians need to be made aware of,” said Blake.
“And possibly even go so far as to say that people need to reconsider our relationship with Cuba, given the fact that they are treating these two officers in this most horrendous, disgraceful way.”
—With files from John Daly and Julia Foy