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Spain expecting 37 Cuban dissendents on Friday

Published on 07/04/2011

A group of 37 Cuban former political prisoners and around 200 of their relatives are expected in Madrid Friday on a plane specially chartered by the Spanish government, the foreign ministry announced.

It will be the largest such group to arrive in Spain since last July’s agreement between the Cuban government and the Catholic church, brokered by Spain, which led to the release of dozens of detainees.

So far 78 former political prisoners have arrived in Spain from the Communist state since the deal was agreed, the ministry spokesman said.

The new arrivals are expected to include Orlando Fundora, one of a group of 75 opposition activists arrested during a 2003 crackdown by the Cuban authorities in Havana. He was released on medical grounds two years ago.

Last year’s accord came after Cuban leader Raul Castro agreed to unprecedented talks with the Catholic Church. The subsequent agreement allowed for the release of 52 of the 75 opposition activists still in jail.

Among the 155 Cubans Spain will now be sheltering are former dissidents picked up in the 2003 crackdown and others jailed on charges of crimes ranging from piracy to terrorism.