Cuban authorities have released six dissidents who were briefly detained just hours after the European Union had totally lifted its sanctions on the island, saying there had been signs of improvements in Cuba’s human rights.
The dissidents were detained Friday morning as they staged a protest near an office of the Ministry of Interior, in charge of domestic security, in the city of Matanzas.
All had been released by early Saturday.
News reports from Havana identified the six as Jorge Luis ‘‘Antúnez’’ García Pérez; his wife, Iraida Pérez; Idania Yanes; Yesmielena Surbano; Benito Ortega; and Blas Fortún.
Ortega said that security agents had told the group that they were under investigation for disobedience, resisting and causing damage.
Cuban authorities often detain dissidents briefly, usually to prevent planned gatherings or warn the government critics to stop their activities or face tougher sanctions.
The group’s detentions came a day after the European Union officially lifted sanctions put on Cuba after a harsh 2003 crackdown that sentenced 75 dissidents to up to 28 years in prison after quick, usually one-day trials.
The EU sanctions, which included a ban on meetings between high-ranking EU and Cuban officials, were suspended several years ago but remained on the books until Thursday.
EU officials said they have seen improvements in Cuba’s human rights situation, but along with lifting the sanctions the European body was expected to issue a statement next week urging Havana to release all political prisoners and take other steps.
‘‘Antúnez’’ was released last year after serving a 17-year sentence for ‘‘enemy propaganda’’ and sabotage. Of the 75 convicted in 2003, 20 have been released on parole for health reasons.
He said the protest Friday in Matanzas was designed to spotlight the earlier detention of his wife’s brother, Mario Alberto Pérez, for investigation on unspecified charges.