November 1, 2010 / 9:00 PM / 9 years ago

Cuba to release longest-held political prisoner

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba will free its longest-held political prisoner, jailed since 1985, and send him to Spain as the government continues to ship opponents out of the country.

The Catholic Church said on Monday that Cuba had agreed to release three more prisoners, including Adrian Alvarez, 44, who has been serving a 30-year sentence for stealing rifles while in the Cuban military.

He was allegedly taking the weapons with plans to launch a military action against the government.

The three prisoners were not included among 52 that Cuban officials agreed to let go in a July deal with the church.

So far, 39 of those original 52 have been released, and most of those still behind bars are said to be resisting the government’s demand that they go to Spain.

In the meantime, Cuba has agreed to release 11 other prisoners, bringing to 50 the total number freed since July.

The releases have relaxed international pressure on Cuba that followed the February death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died during a hunger strike for improved prison conditions.

Cuban President Raul Castro is said to want to free all political prisoners to end one of Cuba’s longstanding problems with the international community.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights has said there are about 100 political prisoners behind bars.

Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; editing by Jeff Franks and Stacey Joyce

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