Six released Cuban political prisoners arrive in Spain

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Six political prisoners released by Cuba arrived in Spain Tuesday along with their close relatives, the first of 52 authorized to leave the country, Spanish public radio reported.

The group arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport on a regular Air Europa flight at 12:50 pm (1050 GMT), it said, while a seventh political prisoner is scheduled to arrive on an Iberia airlines flight later on Tuesday.

The seven political prisoners, all of them men, are between the ages of 33 and 65. They were sentenced to prison terms of between 15 and 24 years and they all had health problems.

About 30 of their close relatives were to accompany the seven political prisoners to Spain, an official at the Spanish embassy in Havana said.

Cuba agreed last Wednesday to free the 52 political prisoners, the biggest gesture of its kind in a decade, in a surprise deal between the Roman Catholic Church after a hunger strike to near-death by dissident Guillermo Farinas.

Havana wants to avoid a repeat of the death in detention of dissident Orlando Zapata on February 23 as it seeks closer international ties to improve its grim economic situation.

On learning of the surprise church-state deal, psychologist and online journalist Farinas -- one of the regime's fiercest critics -- ended a more than four-month hunger strike.

Spain, which helped broker the deal between the Cuban government and the Church, has said it is willing to receive all of the prisoners after their release.

Church officials have said that so far, 20 of the 52 had agreed to leave Cuba, a former Spanish colony, for Spain.

In addition to the first seven, the thirteen other political prisoners are expected to depart Cuba for Spain over the coming days, according to Cuba's Roman Catholic Church.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Monday that Spain would provide "logistical support" to the political prisoners and their families through the Red Cross and the Spanish Commission for Assistance to Refugees.

© 2010 AFP

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