Cuban Catholic Church reveals names of 6 more prisoners Castro’s gov’t has promised to free

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cuba to free 6 more political prisoners into exile

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday revealed the names of six more political prisoners to be released into exile in Spain under an agreement with President Raul Castro’s government.

The men are among 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown on organized political opposition and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason. In a landmark deal, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still jailed from the crackdown.

The new releases would bring to 32 the number freed under the agreement so far — and all have left Cuba for Spain, with one then settling in Chile.

Church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement that the next six slated for release are Victor Arroyo Carmona, Alexis Rodriguez Fernandez, Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares, Alfredo Dominguez Batista, Prospero Gainza Aguero and Claro Sanchez Altarriba.

Both the Cuban government and the church say releasing all 52 will take months — but Tuesday’s announcement means that after barely six weeks, just 20 are still left behind bars.

Some political prisoners in Cuba have been offered freedom but have declined to leave their homeland. It is not clear if those released subsequently will be exiled or if some will be allowed to stay in the country.

On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that some of the Cubans released to Spain “have inquired about coming to the United States and we will evaluate those cases on a case by case basis.”

He said U.S. officials are working “to find the most expeditious manner to handle any requests that these individuals might make and details are still being worked out.”

Crowley said that coming to the U.S. through a third country is a more complicated process than arriving directly from Cuba, “but it doesn’t by itself rule out anyone coming to the United States.”

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