52 Cuban political prisoners to be released
Posted: 07 July 2010 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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BY JUAN O. TAMAYO | Miami Herald

The Cuban government will free 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the island, the country’s Catholic church announced Wednesday in what would amount to Havana’s largest release of jailed opponents in three decades.

Cuban leader Raúl Castro gave Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega the news at a meeting Wednesday, their latest encounter in nearly two months of unprecedented negotiations between the communist government and church leaders over the island’s estimated 160 political prisoners.

Castro told Ortega that five prisoners will be released Wednesday, with permission to leave for Spain, and another 47 will be freed in no more than four months, said a communiqué signed by the spokesman for the Havana archbishop’s office, Orlando Márquez.

The 52 are all part of the 75 dissidents sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years during a 2003 crackdown on opposition figures known as Cuba’s Black Spring, Márquez reported. The others were previously released because of health conditions.

``Ortega was informed that in the next few hours another six prisoners will be transferred to [jails in] their home provinces and five more will be freed, and will be able to leave soon for Spain, accompanied by their families,’’ the communique said.

``The Cuban authorities also informed that the 47 prisoners remaining of those who were detained in 2003 will be freed and will be able to leave the country,’’ the communique added. ``This process will be concluded in three to four months from now.’‘

The releases were likely to draw praise from the Obama Administration and the European Union, which have been urging Cuba to improve its human rights record if it wants to clear the way for improved diplomatic relations.

Castro and Ortega have been negotiating the release of some political prisoners, and improved jail conditions for others, since May in the Havana government’s first-ever negotiations with an independent Cuban organization.

Up until Wednesday, the talks had led to the release of one wheel-chair bound political prisoner Ariel Sigler, and the transfer of another dozen to prisons closer to their homes.

About 3,600 political prisoners were freed or were allowed to leave Cuba as a result of negotiations in 1978 between the government and a controversial group of Cuban exiles.

The church communique said Castro informed Ortega of the upcoming releases at a meeting also joined by visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Ortega had met separately with Moratinos and Rodriguez hours before the session with Castro, it added.

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Posted: 07 July 2010 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Too bad they are being forced to leave their country.

So, great, they are free… in another country.

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