A well-known Cuban political prisoner is set to walk out of jail, Roman Catholic officials and the man's wife said Friday, bringing to just four the number of dissidents that remain behind bars from a notorious 2003 sweep.
Pedro Arguelles, who was serving a 20-year sentence for treason and other charges, was told he would be allowed to return to his home in central Cuba, his wife Yolanda Vera told The Associated Press.
"I am very nervous and very excited," she said. "He's been away for eight years ... We are practically crying with joy."
Arguelles's release was confirmed by Orlando Marquez, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church.
The church announced separately that the government had agreed to free seven other prisoners who were not part of the 2003 crackdown, and send them into exile in Spain. Two of those men were members of opposition groups, and others were jailed for violent, but politically motivated acts like hijacking.
The release of Arguelles means Cuba is now holding just four men recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International _ Oscar Bicet, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Felix Navarro and Librado Linares.
Seventy-five intellectuals and opposition activists were arrested in the 2003 crackdown.
In July, Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to free all 52 prisoners remaining from that roundup following a meeting with Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
The government had no comment. Despite the releases, it considers the dissidents to be mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble.
Associated Press reporter Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report