Spain secures release of Cuban political prisoners

The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, has announced today that the 52 political prisoners that the Cuban government has promised to release over the next few months can come and live in Spain if they want to. In a press conference in La Habana shortly before his return to Spain he said that the Spanish government had accepted a proposal from the Cuban government for all those who are going to be liberated to travel to Spain.

The prisoners will be released gradually over the next four months. They belong to a group called the ‘Grupo de los 75’. The group consists of 52 prisoners who were arrested and detained in a wave of repression during the spring of 2003 – some of the prison sentences were up to 28 years long.

Out of these 52 prisoners five are due to be released almost immediately and will travel to Spain with their families. The rest of the group due to be released will be free to do the same and according to Moratinos will receive the support and help from the Spanish government in order de be able to do so.

Once they leave Cuba family members will be able to return to Cuba as many times as they wish while the ex-prisoners will need special authorization from the Cuban government.

In addition Moratinos says that the Cuban government has promised not to expropriate their houses in Cuba and has also granted the ¬prisoners the right to travel to other countries once they are in Spain.

Moratinos explained that nobody disputed that these prisoners had be imprisoned for political reasons and that the number of political prisoners in Cuba is currently estimated to be 167 including the 52 due for release.

According to Moratinos, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the list of prisoners and the status of political prisoner needs to be verified in some cases because some of the prisoners had participated in terrorist activities, violence or sabotage.

Following his announcement of the release of the 52 political prisoners Moratinos spoke to the EU representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, who congratulated him and expressed her satisfaction.

Moratinos will also speak to the Secretary of State for the United States, Hillary Clinton, to inform her about his visit to Cuba and the release of the 52 political prisoners. He said that it was the biggest release of political prisoners in Cuba for a long time.

In the press conference in Cuba Moratinos said that his meeting with the President of Cuba, Raúl Castro, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, and the Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, had lasted for six hours.

Following the meetings the President of Cuba invited Moratinos to a light lunch in his private residence where they watched the football match between Spain and Germany.

Moratinos said that Raúl Castro was very pleased with Spain’s triumph.