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Church: Cuba to free dissident, transfer six others

By David Ariosto, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The decision is a rare sign of compromise between Cuba, church
  • Church: Ariel Sigler, in jail since 2003, will be freed
  • Six others will be sent to prisons close to their homes
  • Church, state talked in May about prisoner release
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(CNN) -- In the latest sign of compromise between Cuba and church leaders, Cuba's Roman Catholic Church says the government has agreed to free one jailed dissident and relocate six others to prisons closer to their homes.

Ailing political prisoner Ariel Sigler, who has been in jail since a 2003 government crackdown, is set to be freed, the church said late Friday evening.

His release and the six other prisoner transfers follow a series of inmate transfers to prisons closer to their homes announced earlier this month.

The Cuban government could not immediately confirm the transfers.

Earlier in June, the church announced that longtime dissident Diosdado Gonzalez was being moved from a maximum-security prison in Cuba's western Pinar Del Rio province to a prison closer his home in Matanzas province.

He and others were set to be transferred earlier this month, according to a church statement made in early June.

In May, Cuba's Roman Catholic cardinal, Jaime Ortega, described a rare four-hour meeting with President Raul Castro as a "magnificent start" to talks centered on the potential release of some of the island's jailed dissidents.

Ortega also successfully negotiated an agreement with government authorities last month that allowed a group of women protesters to march.