Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cuba frees paraplegic dissident Ariel Sigler

Cuba frees paraplegic dissident Ariel Sigler
Page last updated at 19:58 GMT, Saturday, 12 June 2010 20:58 UK

The Cuban government has freed a jailed dissident and moved six others
to jails closer to their homes.

Senior Catholic clergymen had urged Cuban president Raul Castro to
release Ariel Sigler, 47, on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Sigler became paraplegic in jail and his family had serious concerns
for his health.

He was arrested in 2003 as part of a government sweep on dissidents, and
found guilty of treason.

The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says Mr Sigler's release is the latest
in a series of minor concessions following talks between Cuban officials
and Catholic church leaders.

The move comes just days before the Vatican's Foreign Minister,
Dominique Mamberti, is due to travel to Havana.

Our correspondent says there are still about 180 political prisoners in
Cuba, and almost 30 of them are said to suffer serious health problems.

Arriving in his home town of Pedro Betancourt, Mr Sigler told reporters
he felt a mix of happiness and sadness.
Continue reading the main story Laura Pollan

"I'm sad because I can't share this moment with my mother, who died five
months ago and because more than half of our companions are still in
prison," he said.

His arrest in 2003, along with that of 74 other dissidents, became known
among opposition groups as "black spring".

The six prisoners being transferred were among those arrested in 2003.
One of them is Hector Maceda, whose wife Laura Pollan leads the pressure
group Ladies in White.

The group has been holding protest marches to demand the dissidents'

Ms Pollan said the Ladies in White were pleased about the transfers but
pointed out that their ultimate goal, the release of their relatives,
had not yet been achieved.

The transfer is the second this month, bringing the number of those
moved to 12.

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