Cuba releases 2 more dissidents

The dissidents had been held in a 2003 crackdown that swept 75 into prisons.

Updated: Feb 13, 2011, 09:55 AM IST

Havana: Cuba on Saturday released two more political prisoners who had been promised freedom in a deal brokered last year, but were kept imprisoned because they refused exile.

The latest to be released was Angel Moya, a 46-year-old construction worker, serving a 20-year sentence.

His wife, Berta Soler, one of the leaders of the Ladies in White rights group, said of the release.

"Angel is at home with my children, I ran to meet him," she said.

The news came hours after the release of Hector Maseda, the husband of the main leader of Ladies in White.

Maseda, a 68-year-old journalist and founder of the outlawed Liberal Party, was released at noon and will remain in Cuba, said Elizardo Sanchez, the head of an illegal but tolerated rights group.

Maseda and Moya were among 52 dissidents the government of President Raul Castro had promised to release from prison last July in a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.

Of those, 11 rejected offers of exile in Spain.

Five security agents took Maseda to the home he shares with his wife, Laura Pollan, in a working-class neighbourhood of Havana, Sanchez said.

Maseda initially did not want to leave prison until he had a pardon or was granted unconditional freedom, Sanchez said. He also wanted the sick dissidents to be released first.

Instead his sentence was merely suspended, not revoked.

"The government, the officers, told him that he had to leave now," Sanchez said.

Maseda, an electrical engineer by training, has worked in the past for the group Reporters Without Borders, and written for newspapers such as France`s Le Monde and The New York Times.

Four of the 11 who had rejected exile to Spain have now been freed, all this month.

Cuba released Eduardo Diaz, 59, on Friday and Guido Sigler, 57, on February 04. Sigler said he is considering emigrating to the United States.

The dissidents had been arrested in a 2003 crackdown that swept 75 into prisons and saw them sentenced to terms of between six and 28 years.

The remaining jailed dissidents are considered prisoners of conscience by the rights group Amnesty International.

Dissident sources say around 100 political prisoners remain jailed in Cuba. The government rejects the claim, arguing that the dissidents are "mercenaries" in Washington`s pay.

Bureau Report