Top News

Cuba to free four more political prisoners

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is preparing to free four more political prisoners and send them to Spain, bringing to 36 the total released so far in a deal between the government and the Roman Catholic Church, the church said on Friday.

Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in July to free 52 jailed opponents in a process the church said could take several months.

Cuba, which views the prisoners as mercenaries for the United States, wants them to go to Spain, which has agreed to accept them.

A statement from the office of Cuban Catholic leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega said the latest group “has accepted the proposal” to leave for Spain and would be sent there “shortly.”

The prisoners are being allowed to take family members along.

The releases have eased pressure on Cuba after international condemnation of the death in February of hunger-striking political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo. There was also outrage at the harassment of the dissident group Ladies in White during marches last spring demanding the release of jailed family members.

Their loved ones, who include all those to freed, were part of a group of 75 dissidents jailed in a March 2003 government crackdown known as the “Black Spring.”

Government opponents have complained that the prisoners are being forced to go to Spain, but the church has said that was only a proposal.

Caridad Espino whose son, Nelson Molinet, is one of the four to be released shortly, said she was glad he was getting out.

“I’m happy because my son is leaving and he’s not going to suffer anymore the harshness of prison,” she told Reuters.

Molinet, the leader of an independent union, has been serving a 20-year sentence.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jeff Franks