Church announces release of 3 Cuba prisoners
By PAUL HAVEN
Associated Press Writer
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.