Cuba to release 3 more jailed dissidents: church

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Cuba will soon free three more jailed dissidents for travel to Spain, as part of 52 inmates it agreed to release before November after church-brokered talks, the Havana archbishop's office said Monday.

"This will bring to 39 the number of prisoners who have taken up the (July) offer to leave prison and travel to Spain," the Roman Catholic Archbishopric said in a statement.

Horacio Pina, 43, Fidel Suarez, 39, and Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, 61 "will be released soon," the statement said.

The three dissidents, all considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, were serving 20-year prison sentences.

All 36 Cuban prisoners released since July have traveled to Spain, where 20 are now making arrangements to move on to the United States.

Twelve of the 52 have decided to remain in Cuba. The Damas de Blanco group of female relatives of jailed dissidents have asked Havana to grant them total freedom and not merely a special license they believe is tantamount to house arrest.

Gravely ill, Ariel Siegler in May became the first prisoner of the group released by Cuban President Raul Castro. He is now undergoing medical treatment in the United States.

Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 of 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown who were still behind bars, under terms of a landmark deal brokered by the church and Spain.

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

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.

© 2010 AFP

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