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Rights activist: Cuba starts relocating jailed dissidents

By David Ariosto, CNN
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Cuba transfers political prisoners

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba has begun moving some of its jailed dissidents to prisons that are closer to their homes, according to Elizardo Sanchez, head of Cuba's independent Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Sanchez said he believes it may be the "beginning of a process" that could lead to better prison conditions for additional dissidents.

The move signals one of the first indications of a softening in treatment toward the country's estimated 200 political prisoners, following a rare meeting between President Raul Castro and the island's Catholic church leaders last month.

Longtime jailed dissident Diosdado Gonzalez is being moved from a maximum security prison in Cuba's western Pinar Del Rio province to a prison closer his home in Matanzas province, Sanchez said.

Jailed dissidents Felix Navarro and Antonio Dias also are to be transferred, he said.

Cuba's Roman Catholic cardinal, Jaime Ortega, has described a rare four-hour meeting last month with President Castro as a "magnificent start" to talks centered around the potential liberation of some of the island's jailed dissidents.

Also last month, Ortega successfully negotiated a rare agreement with government authorities that allowed a group of women protesters to march.