Cuba authorises release of 5 more dissidents

Cuba`s Roman Catholic Church announces names of 5 more prisoners to be freed.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2010, 10:44 AM IST

Havana: Cuba has authorised the release of five more dissidents who are not among the 52 already set for freedom under a landmark deal reached in May, church officials have said.

The five "have accepted to leave prison and be transferred to Spain”, the office of the Havana archbishop said in a statement on Thursday, naming them as Juana Maria Nieves, Domingo Ozuna, Juan Francisco Marimon, Misael Mena and Jose Luis Ramil.

The development comes hours after the European Parliament awarded its prestigious human rights prize to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, who immediately called for an end to Cuba`s Communist "dictatorship”.

Farinas, who heads the outlawed online agency Cubanacan Press, held a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year that left him near death but compelled the Cuban government to release the 52 political prisoners.

Under the deal, Cuba agreed to free 52 of 75 dissidents sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of up to 28 years.

Thirty-nine of the 52 have already been released under the deal, which was brokered by the Roman Catholic Church and should see those who agree transferred to Spain by November.

With the move, Havana had shown signs of wanting to avoid a repeat of the death in detention of dissident Orlando Zapata on February 23 as it sought closer international ties to improve its grim economic situation.

But longtime critics of the regime said it was too soon to tell if the transfers mark a policy shift away from decades of hardline policy by ailing Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro.

The new releases come ahead of a meeting on Monday of EU foreign ministers aimed at reviewing the bloc`s hardline policy toward Cuba.

The United States steadfastly refuses to lift its 62-year-old economic embargo on the communist regime.

PTI