Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cuba to free 52 political prisoners over the next 3-4 months, starting today

Go here for the original Reuters story, here for a press release following the announcement from the Cuba Study Group, and here for a good point on the releases made by Laura Pollán, leader of the Laidies in White. Cuban Colada also gives a list of those to be released here.

Dissident leader: No forcible deportations
"We want true freedom. Let the prisoner and his family decide. If there are forcible deportations, there can be no talk about an advancement of human rights." Laura Pollán, Ladies in White (From the Cuban Colada blog).

Cuba to free 52 political prisoners: church
Wednesday, July 7, 2010 (Reuters - Havana) - The Cuban government will free 52 political prisoners, Cuba's Catholic church said on Wednesday, in a major concession to international pressure to improve its human rights. It said five of the prisoners would be released later on Wednesday and allowed to go to Spain, while the remaining 47 would be freed over the next few months.

The release will reduce the number of dissidents behind bars on the communist-led island to close to 100 and possibly have positive ramifications for Cuba's relations with the United States and Europe, who have long pressed the government to free political prisoners.

Human rights advocates said earlier this week the communist-led island had 167 political prisoners behind bars, including 10 who were out on parole. The release was the largest since 1998, when 101 political prisoners were among about 300 prisoners freed following a visit by Pope John Paul II.

It follows recent dialogue between President Raul Castro and Cuban Catholic leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega and comes after Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos met on Tuesday with Cuban officials in Havana. Cuba came under heavy international criticism after the February 23 death of hunger striking dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo and has since begun to relax its policy toward dissidents, who it consider mercenaries working for the United States.

Another dissident, Guillermo Farinas, has been on a hunger strike for 134 days, seeking the freedom of 25 ailing political prisoners, who are believed included in the group to be released. He was not immediately available for comment about the events.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Statement in Reaction to News of the Cuban Government's Commitment to Release at Least 52 Political Prisoners, Cuba Study Group
Washington, DC- The Cuba Study Group today released the following statement in reaction to news of the Cuban government's commitment to release at least 52 political prisoners over the next three to four months:

The Archdiocese of Havana today issued a statement confirming that during a meeting today between Cuban President Raul Castro, Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Cuban government had committed to releasing at least 52 political prisoners over the next three to four months, beginning with five releases in the coming hours.
"We are extremely pleased by today's announcement that the Cuban government has committed to a process of freeing at least 52 political prisoners over the next three to four months.
We welcome and appreciate the constructive role being played by the Catholic Church in Cuba in a process begun by members of civil society, including: Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Ladies in White and Guillermo Fariñas. While we urge the Catholic Church to continue its role as a positive mediator, we recognize that a solution to the country's many problems requires a true national dialogue where members of Cuba's civil society are represented.
In addition, we call on the Catholic Church of Cuba to continue its work to secure the release of all political prisoners, including over 100 additional individuals not addressed in today's announcement. The Cuba Study Group calls on U.S. officials to respond to the positive development in Cuba with substantive measures."

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