Three more freed Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

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Three more recently freed Cuban dissidents arrived in Madrid Thursday, part of a group of 52 which Havana began to release in mid-July, according to a Spanish diplomatic source.

Manuel Ubals, 41, Alfredo Pulido, 49, and Ricardo Silva, 37 arrived with their families on an Iberia flight at Madrid-Barajas airport in the early afternoon.

A further five ex-detainees were due to arrive in Madrid Friday, completing the list of 20 who had accepted residency in Spain.

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

Spain helped broker a deal reached on July 7 between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church to gradually free 52 detainees.

The deal, the largest release of prisoners since 1998 when 300 dissidents were spared jail time following a visit by then pope John Paul II, 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 economic situation.

Cuba's parliamentary chief Ricardo Alarcon on Tuesday 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.

© 2010 AFP

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