Dissidents in Cuba
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Dissident condemns Cuban prisons

Dissident condemns Cuban prisons

One of four dissidents freed by Havana has spoken out against the
deplorable conditions in Cuban prisons.

Trade unionist Pedro Alvarez was speaking after he and three other
political prisoners were released on health grounds and flown to Spain.

Mr Alvarez was freed with independent reporters Jose Ramon and Alejandro
Gonzalez and dissident Omar Pernet.

The four have promised to campaign for the release of more than 50 of
their colleagues who remain behind bars.

"Imagine what it's like to live in a penal population with delinquents,
murderers, unscrupulous people of all types," said Mr Alvarez.

He described the high-security prison where he was held as being plagued
by mosquitoes with severe humidity.

"They are practically concentration camps, or more than concentration
camps, camps of physical and moral destruction," he told the Associated
Press.

Health grounds

The 60-year-old said that the Cuban authorities had given him the choice
to remain in prison or go into exile.

With his health failing, Mr Alvarez had little option but to leave Cuba,
he said, but had he been a younger man he would have stayed out of
solidarity with his fellow prisoners.

The four men were among 75 prominent figures convicted of being
mercenaries in the pay of the US five years ago and given lengthy jail
sentences.

They were flown out of Cuba on a Spanish military jet with their
families, arriving near Madrid on Sunday.

Cuba had been expected to release seven political prisoners on health
grounds after negotiations with Spain last week.

Their release is being seen by Western diplomatic sources in Cuba as a
positive move by acting President Raul Castro, whose brother Fidel
Castro underwent emergency surgery 18 months ago.

Unilateral move

"The decision was made unilaterally by the Cuban authorities and we are
very satisfied," said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

On Friday, he had announced Cuba would free seven of the 59 dissidents
still imprisoned after the 2003 crackdown.

The other three are expected to be flown to the US, says the BBC's
Michael Voss in Havana.

Those convicted were given prison sentences of up to 28 years, but 16
have already been released on health grounds.

There has been no official comment on the release by the Cuban authorities.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/7251142.stm

Published: 2008/02/18 17:01:19 GMT

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