Spain says US prepared to take political dissidents released from Cuba jails

By Harold Heckle, AP
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spain says US to take Cuba prisoners

MADRID — The United States is prepared to take in Cuban political prisoners following their release from jail, Spain’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

A ministry spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos in a phone conversation that the U.S. would be prepared to accept dissidents so long as the transfer did not break any laws.

The spokesman said Clinton had congratulated Moratinos for Spain’s joint effort with the Roman Catholic church to arrange the release of dissidents arrested in a March 2003 crackdown.

Some 75 dissidents were arrested in 2003 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason.

In a landmark deal after talks with the church and Spain, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release 52 prisoners still being held.

Spain has so far accepted 25 Cuban dissidents, but some have refused release, saying they will only go to the U.S.

Katherine Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, said she had no details on the matter, adding that the Department of Homeland Security normally assesses the status of such negotiations.

All the dissidents released so far have agreed to leave Cuba for Spain; one later settled in Chile.

The ministry spokesman said that Clinton had also briefed Moratinos on Mideast talks to take place on Sept. 2 in Washington between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.

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