Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cuba to free 3 prisoners not in church deal of 52

Posted on Saturday, 10.09.10
Cuba to free 3 prisoners not in church deal of 52
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Cuba will release into exile in Spain a lawyer jailed for
allegedly revealing state security secrets and two hijackers, none of
whom were on a list of 52 political prisoners the government has agreed
to free in a deal with the Roman Catholic Church.

The church said Saturday that Rolando Jimenez Posada, an attorney
considered by Amnesty International to be a "prisoner of conscience,"
has agreed to accept early release from prison in exchange for leaving
Cuba with his family.

Two other inmates, Ciro Perez Santana and Arturo Suarez Ramos, will also
be freed and sent to Spain with their relatives. Both were held for
"piracy," which translates to hijacking an airliner or a ferry in an
attempt to flee to the U.S.

Perez Santana was arrested in 1994 and had been serving a 20-year
sentence, while Suarez Ramos was arrested in 1987 and got a 30-year

The three weren't among the 75 opposition activists, community
organizers, dissidents and independent journalists defying state
controls on media who were arrested in a 2003 crackdown on political
dissent. Twenty-three of that group were released before July, when Raul
Castro's government promised church leaders it would free the remaining 52.

The release of inmates not in the group of dissidents indicates Cuba is
expanding its moves to liberate other prisoners considered by
international human rights organizations as jailed for their political

Cuba had previously maintained it held no political prisoners, saying
the 75 were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included
treason and taking money from the U.S. to destabilize the island's
communist government.

Jimenez Posada, the lawyer, was arrested in April 2003 and was serving a
12-year sentence for disrespecting authority and "revealing secrets
about state security police" after he publicly pledged support for the
political prisoners captured the previous month.

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega "called Rolando this morning at around 11
and told him we should be ready to go" to Madrid, Jimenez Posada's wife,
Lamasiel Gutierrez, said Saturday night, when reached at her home on
Isla de la Juventud, south of mainland Cuba.

London-based Amnesty International had listed Jimenez Posada as the only
"prisoner of conscience" who would have been left in Cuban jails if the
government made good on its pledge with the church to free the 52

But Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human
Rights and National Reconciliation, says there are about 105 more
inmates she considers political prisoners. Some of those have been
convicted of violent crimes, however, and Sanchez says only about 40
would fit into the classic definition of nonviolent political prisoners.

All but 13 of the dissidents covered in the deal with the church have
been freed. At least seven of those still jailed have rejected freedom
because they don't want to leave Cuba.

Why Cuban authorities are pushing to reduce the number of political
prisoners is not known, though some people have speculated it may be
part of an effort to promote reconciliation with the United States.

The administration of President Barack Obama has long suggested it may
be time for a new beginning with Cuba, but it has also said Cuba's
government needs to embrace small economic and social reforms before a
true thaw can take place.

In addition to freeing political prisoners, Castro's government
announced last month that it will lay off a half-million state employees
and reduce restrictions on self-employment, small businesses and pockets
of free enterprise as a way of modernizing and overhauling its
state-dominated economy.

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