Cuban Church announces release of 5 more prisoners

The Cuban government has agreed to release all 52 political prisoners.

Last Updated: Jul 11, 2010, 09:19 AM IST

Havana: Officials from the Cuban Roman Catholic Church on Saturday revealed the names of five more political prisoners who will be released into exile in the coming days under a landmark agreement with President Raul Castro`s government.

There was no word, however, on exactly when officials planned to free them or five others whose names were released last week.

The 10 are among a group of 52 inmates who remain in jail following a broad 2003 crackdown on dissent that resulted in lengthy prison terms on treason and other charges.

The government agreed to release all 52 prisoners after a meeting on Wednesday between Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega. The Church has taken an increasingly public role in relations between the government and the opposition since the death of a jailed dissident hunger striker in February. The meeting was brokered by visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

The five men to be freed next are Normando Hernandez, Julio C Galvez, Omar R Ruiz, Mijail Barzaga and Ricardo Gonzalez, Church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement.

The Church announced the names of the first five prisoners to be released on Thursday, and said all had accepted asylum in Spain, as did those on the list announced yesterday. Neither the Church nor the Cuban government has said whether agreeing to exile is a requirement of release. Ortega has described exile as an "option”.

A Church official who was not authorised to be quoted by name said yesterday that it was not clear exactly when any of the men will actually leave jail. The archbishop`s statement said only that the releases would take place "soon”.

Relatives and human rights officials said late Friday that the prisoners had not yet been given word to clear out their cells.