Church: 3 more political prisoners to be released from Cuban jail

By Paul Haven, AP
Monday, September 27, 2010

Church announces release of 3 Cuba prisoners

HAVANA — The Roman Catholic Church on Monday announced the names of three more Cuban political prisoners who will be released from jail, as the government rapidly makes good on a promise to free some 52 dissidents arrested in a 2003 sweep.

The three men, Horacio Julio Pina Borrego, Fidel Suarez Cruz and Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, will be released in the coming days. Like the 36 let go before them, the men have all agreed to be sent to Spain, Cuban church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement Monday.

The men were among a group of 75 activists and opposition leaders rounded up in a 2003 crackdown on dissent and sentenced to long jail terms. Fuentes was serving a 26-year sentence, while Borrego and Suarez had each received 20-year jail terms.

In July, Cuba’s government agreed to release all 52 of those arrested in 2003 who remained in jail over a period of three or four months. About half way through that process, just 13 remain behind bars.

While neither the Church nor government authorities have said that accepting exile in Spain is a prerequisite to release, it clearly smooths the way. Among those still in jail are several of the island’s most prominent political prisoners, whose wives have said they do not want to leave Cuba.

Once the release is complete, Cuba will hold just one person considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience.

The number of other political prisoners is a matter of dispute. A list maintained by Elizardo Sanchez, the head of the independent, Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, includes about 105 additional names, but many of those have been convicted of violent crimes — including murder and hijacking.

Sanchez says about 40 of the people on his list would fit into the classic definition of nonviolent political prisoners.

Despite the releases, the Cuban government has long maintained that none of the people it holds are political prisoners, describing them as mercenaries paid by the United States to destabilize the government.

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