HAVANA – HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's Roman Catholic Church on Friday revealed the names of four more political prisoners to be released into exile in Spain, bringing to 36 the number freed and sent off the island under an agreement with President Raul Castro's government.
The men are among 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown on organized political opposition and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The charges included treason and conspiring with U.S. authorities to undermine Cuba's communist system.
Under a once-unthinkable government deal with the church, which Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos helped facilitate, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still imprisoned from the crackdown.
Nelson Molinet Espino, Hector Raul Valle Hernandez, Miguel Galvan Gutierrez and Jose Miguel Martinez Hernandez will be freed as soon and flown to Spain, Cuban church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement.
That means all 36 former prisoners released so far will have elected to head to Spain with their families. One then continued on to Chile and settled there.
That leaves just 16 awaiting release some nine weeks after the agreement — though some political prisoners have been offered freedom but declined to leave their country.
It is not clear if those released subsequently will be exiled or if some will be allowed to stay in Cuba — and how long their releases will take is also unknown.