Two more political prisoners leave Cuba for Spain

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Cuba allowed two more freed political prisoners to leave the communist country for Spain on Tuesday a day after seven others did the same, dissidents and the Spanish embasssy here said.

That left 11 more still in Cuba out of 20 who have agreed to emigrate to Spain, of the total of 52 political prisoners Cuba has agreed to free in total in the next few months.

Journalists Normando Hernandez, 40, and Omar Rodriguez, 44, traveled out on an Iberia flight late Tuesday, said former political prisoners and prominent dissidents Martha Beatriz Roque and Oscar Espinosa, who were in phone contact with one of them.

The seven Cuban men flashed victory signs as they arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport earlier Tuesday on two separate commercial flights along with 33 family members after the biggest gesture by Cuba's communist government in a decade.

The seven dissidents, who are between the ages of 33 and 65 and who all have health problems, were sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of between 15 and 24 years.

Cuba agreed on July 7 to gradually free 52 political prisoners 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.

© 2010 AFP

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