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Cuba to release paraplegic dissident: Catholic Church

Cuba is to release a jailed paraplegic political dissident as a result of talks between the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro, the office of the Archbishop of Havana said.



Havana: Cuba is to release a jailed paraplegic political dissident as a result of talks between the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro, the office of the Archbishop of Havana said.

The dissident, Ariel Sigler Amaya, 46, has been in prison since 2003.

Six other dissidents will also be moved to jails in their home provinces on Saturday to be closer to their relatives as a result of the talks, the archbishop`s office said in a statement.

Cuban authorities told Cardinal Jaime Ortega that Sigler, sentenced to 20 years prison and currently in a Havana hospital, would be given license to leave prison.

Sigler and the other six prisoners are part of a group of 73 political dissidents picked up in a government crackdown in March 2003. Of the original group, 53 remain behind bars, including Sigler and the other six.

Sigler, who heads the Independent Alternative Option Movement (MIOA) -- an outlawed political group in the western province of Matanzas -- was stricken with a series of chronic illnesses and has been in a wheelchair since September 2008. In mid-August 2009 he was hospitalized.

Cuba`s communist government in early June started relocating political prisoners closer to their families after talks with church representatives, dissident and family sources said.

The talks between Castro and Ortega, launched on May 19, were aimed at ending hunger strikes in support of the political prisoners, which have become a major political embarrassment for the Cuban government.

However the head of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission (CCDHRN), Elizardo Sanchez, said he was "unsatisfied" with the news.

Sigler "should be released without conditions" because the release conditions implied that he could be re-arrested, Sanchez said.

According to the CCDHRN -- an outlawed but tolerated group -- there are some 200 political prisoners on the island. Cuban authorities consider them a threat to national security, and claim the prisoners are "mercenaries" in Washington`s pay, out to smear the Cuban government.

The last political prisoner the Cuban government released was Nelson Aguiar, 64, set free for health reasons in October 2009 after the Spanish government lobbied for his release.

Improvements for the prisoners come as the United States and the European Union have heavily criticized Cuba for its poor human rights record, especially following the February death of dissident Orlando Zapata after an 85-day hunger strike.

"Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, was informed by authorities that (Saturday) six prisoners will be transferred to their province of residence," read the statement from the archbishop`s office released late Friday.

"We were informed at the same time that prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya ... will be released on parole" for health reasons, the statement read, without saying when Sigler would be released.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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