Cuba: Church says dissident, 9 others to be freed

AP News
Posted: Mar 10, 2011 8:53 PM
Cuba: Church says dissident, 9 others to be freed

Cuban officials will free a political dissident from prison and let him stay on the island, while nine other inmates jailed for crimes against state security are being sent to Spain, the Roman Catholic Church said Thursday.

The releases are being carried out under an agreement between the church and the government that has so far freed about 100 people, some who have served time for political activism and others for violent, but politically motivated acts.

The Archdiocese of Havana said the government planned to release Oscar Elias Biscet, a dissident who was arrested during an internationally criticized roundup of dissidents in 2003. Seventy-five people were convicted of allegedly taking money and guidance from the U.S. and groups seeking to overturn Cuba's communist system.

Biscet, a physician serving a 25-year sentence, was one of several inmates covered by the church's deal with the government who had refused to accept exile in return for his freedom. His release would leave three of the 2003 dissidents in jail.

The archdiocese also said authorities were freeing nine inmates who had been convicted of state security offenses, which include hijacking, terrorism and possession of weapons. All nine would be exiled to Spain, the church said.

There was no confirmation from the government, which general doesn't comment on the releases. Although it has agreed to free dissidents, the government still characterizes them as mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble.