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    Cuba frees another prominent political prisoner

    Posted on Saturday, 02.26.11

    Cuba frees another prominent political prisoner
    Associated Press

    HAVANA -- Cuba has agreed to free another prominent political prisoner
    and send eight other inmates into exile in Spain, the Roman Catholic
    Church announced Saturday.

    The release of Diosdado Gonzalez means just five of 75 peaceful
    activists, social commentators and opposition figures jailed in a 2003
    crackdown remain behind bars.

    Cuba has told Catholic leaders it plans to free them all, and it is also
    ridding its jails of many other prisoners whose crimes - some of them
    violent - had some political motivation.

    Church spokesman Orlando Marquez announced the releases in a statement

    Gonzalez, a 48-year-old electrician and farmer, is the husband of
    Alejandrina Garcia, a leader of the Ladies in White opposition group,
    who briefly launched a hunger strike last month to demand his release.

    Reached by the Associated Press at her home in a small village in
    central Matanzas province, Garcia said she has been walking on air since
    receiving word she would soon have her husband home again.

    "Can you imagine!" she said. "I am as nervous as a young girl waiting
    for her boyfriend to arrive."

    Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in July to free all 52 prisoners
    remaining from the 2003 sweep following a meeting with Catholic Cardinal
    Jaime Ortega. At the time, the clergyman said the deal called for the
    men to be out within four months, or by November.

    Authorities quickly released 41 prisoners, sending all but one into
    exile in Spain along with their families. But the process stalled as
    those who remained behind bars refused to leave, and many vowed to
    continue to press for democratic political change once free.

    But pressure has been building on the government to make good on the
    agreement, and in recent months it has begun to release the rest of the
    men and let them stay in the country. Gonzalez has indicated he has no
    intention of leaving the island, a stance reiterated Saturday by his wife.

    Garcia said she had spoken to her husband in prison and "he affirmed
    that he wants to stay in Cuba to continue his fight."

    "I respect all of his decisions because they are just, he has his
    motives and he thinks he must be here to keep up the peaceful struggle,"
    she said.

    The Cuban government had no immediate comment on the releases.
    Authorities rarely acknowledge the dissidents, except to say they are
    all common criminals and stooges paid by Washington to destabilize the

    In addition to Gonzalez, the church announced the release of eight
    prisoners jailed for a variety of offenses, including hijacking and
    trying to leave the country illegally. All will be allowed to go to
    Spain along with their families.
    Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report.

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