HAVANA (AFP) – Cuba on Saturday released from prison Hector Maseda, the
husband of the main leader of the Ladies in White rights group, a
prominent political dissident told AFP.
Maseda, a 68-year-old journalist and founder of the outlawed Liberal
Party, was released at noon and will remain in Cuba, said Elizardo
Sanchez, the head of an illegal but tolerated rights group.
Maseda was one of 52 dissidents the government of President Raul Castro
had promised to release from prison last July in a deal brokered by the
Catholic Church. Of those, 11 rejected offers of exile in Spain.
Five security agents took Maseda to the home he shares with his wife,
Laura Pollan, in a working-class neighborhood of Havana, Sanchez said.
Maseda initially did not want to leave prison until he had a pardon or
was granted unconditional freedom, Sanchez said. He also wanted the sick
dissidents to be released first.
Instead his sentence was merely suspended, not revoked.
"The government, the officers, told him that he had to leave now,"
Sanchez told AFP.
Maseda, an electrical engineer by training, has collaborated in the past
for the group Reporters Without Borders, and written for newspapers such
as France's Le Monde and The New York Times.
Three of the 11 who had rejected exile to Spain have now been freed, all
Cuba released Eduardo Diaz, 59, on Friday and Guido Sigler, 57, on
February 4. Sigler said he is considering emigrating to the United States.
The three had been arrested in a 2003 crackdown that swept 75 dissidents
into prisons and saw them sentenced to terms of between six and 28 years.
Maseda's release surprised Pollan, who on Saturday was visiting Diaz and
his family in the town of Consolacion del Sur, in Pinar del Rio
province, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Havana.
The remaining jailed dissidents are considered prisoners of conscience
by the rights group Amnesty International.
The female relatives of political dissidents are the core members of the
Ladies in White, a group that won the European Parliament's 2005
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The group have held marches and vigils seeking the release of their
loved ones, often facing verbal and sometimes physical abuse from
supporters of the island's communist regime.
Dissident sources say around 100 political prisoners remain jailed in
Cuba. The government rejects the claim, arguing that the dissidents are
"mercenaries" in Washington's pay."