Last five freed Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The last five of a group of recently freed Cuban dissidents arrived in Spain on Friday along with with several of their family members.

The five men, aged between 39 and 66, arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport on two commercial flights from Havana.

They completed the list of 20 who have accepted residency in Spain after Madrid helped broker a deal reached on July 7 between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church to gradually free 52 detainees.

The remaining prisoners will remain in Cuba or leave for the United States.

The US Interest Section in Havana on Tuesday offered refugee status to all freed dissidents and their families who wish to travel to the United States and began interviewing prospective immigrants.

One of the five who arrived in Spain on Friday, Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo, 44, may take another flight out of Madrid for Chile after Santiago said this week it would welcome him and his family.

If all 52 dissidents are freed, it will be the largest release of Cuban prisoners since 1998 when 300 dissidents were spared jail time following a visit by then pope John Paul II.

The deal came after dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death.

Havana wants to avoid a repeat of the death in detention of political prisoner Orlando Zapata on February 23, as it seeks closer international ties to improve its slumping economy.

And Cuba's parliamentary chief Ricardo Alarcon has said the country was ready to release more detainees.

Elizardo Sanchez, the president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation that is tolerated by the government, said a further 50 or 60 political prisoners could be freed.

Cuban dissidents said there were approximately 170 political prisoners in Cuban jails before the announced release.

© 2010 AFP

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