August 10, 2007 / 10:05 PM / 12 years ago

Cuba frees longest-serving political prisoner

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba on Friday released its longest-serving political prisoner Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez, who spent more than 13 years in jail, the communist-run country’s main human rights group said.

Chaviano, 54, was arrested in May 1994, convicted of revealing state security secrets and sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a statement. He was released on parole.

The former mathematics professor, dissident and human rights activist was listed by Amnesty International as one of Cuba’s 72 prisoners of conscience. The rights group said his military trial in 1994 fell short of international standards.

“The freeing of Chaviano raises the issue of the situation of more than 200 political prisoners that are living in sub-human and degrading conditions in Cuban jails,” said the commission’s spokesman, Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz.

He said Cuba has the world’s highest per capita ratio of political prisoners.

The commission reported last month that the number of political prisoners in Cuba dropped from 283 to 246 in the first half of the year.

But the report said the human rights situation had not improved since ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul Castro more than a year ago.

Cuba does not allow the International Red Cross access to its prisons.

The Cuban government denies there are political prisoners in Cuba and labels all dissidents “counter-revolutionary mercenaries” on the payroll of its arch-enemy, the United States.

Former political prisoners and relatives of currently jailed dissidents denounced jail conditions at a meeting at the residence of the top U.S. diplomat in Havana, Michael Parmly.

They complained of the lack of medical care, overcrowding, bad food and inadequate drinking water. They said common criminals were treated better than political prisoners.

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