By Shasta Darlington, CNN
February 13, 2011 -- Updated 0510 GMT (1310 HKT)
* Both men wanted to stay until others released
* Raul Castro agreed to let 52 prisoners out in deal with Spain,
* Cuba also sending nonpolitical prisoners into exile, activist says
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Two prominent Cuban dissidents who had refused to
leave prison were released against their wishes on Saturday as the Cuban
government continues to free opposition activists arrested during a
notorious crackdown in 2003.
Hector Maseda Gutierrez, whose wife Laura Pollan is one of the founders
of the Ladies in White who march every Sunday to demand the release of
political prisoners, was freed in the morning.
Angel Moya Acosta was freed later in the day. His wife Berta Soler is
also one of the leaders of the Ladies in White.
"I said I didn't want to leave until other political prisoners, who are
sick and need attention, were freed," Moya told CNN. "But they forced me
Both Maseda and Moya are among the 52 dissidents President Raul Castro
agreed to release as part of a deal brokered with the Catholic Church
What has been hailed as the biggest release of political prisoners in
more than a decade began last year, but initially only those who agreed
to go into exile in Spain were freed.
The recent releases are a sign that the government will continue the
releases even if the dissidents refuse to leave the island.
The Catholic Church announced on Friday that another four prisoners
would soon be released into exile in Spain. But they were not among the
group arrested during the 2003 crackdown. So far, 60 prisoners and their
families have been flown to Spain, more than initially agreed upon.
According to leading Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, the
Cuban government has taken advantage of the deal with Spain to release a
number of prisoners who are not engaged in any political activity and
could not be considered prisoners of conscience.
"The government has adopted an abusive attitude," he told CNN. "They are
making their own prisoner selection, getting rid of prisoners who
wouldn't otherwise be accepted by any other country."