November 25, 2014 / 10:14 PM / 5 years ago

Spain asks Cuba to grant free travel to dissidents

HAVANA (Reuters) - Spain’s foreign minister asked Cuba on Tuesday to grant free travel rights to dissidents arrested in the “black spring” of 2003 and released years later under strict conditions.

Spain mediated historic talks between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church that freed 75 political opponents in 2010 and 2011. They had been sentenced in summary trials to terms ranging from 6 to 28 years.

Cuba granted exile to 63 on the condition they be barred from returning, and most went to Spain. Twelve others who refused to leave jail under those conditions were released on parole and prohibited from leaving the Caribbean island.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day visit to Cuba that he requested that the 12 “be authorized to travel outside of Cuba.”

“At the same time, I have requested that those released from jail in 2011 on parole who are currently in Spain be authorized to travel to Cuba,” Garcia-Margallo said in a prepared statement and without taking questions from reporters.

Former President Fidel Castro’s crackdown on dissidents in 2003 became known as the “black spring” and strained Cuban relations with Western powers. The dissidents were released after Castro became ill and handed power to his brother Raul Castro, at first provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editng by Daniel Trotta and Andre Grenon

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