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5 more Cuban political prisoners released, Spain says

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
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Cuban prisoners, families await freedom
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 20 jailed dissidents have been released into exile in the past two weeks
  • 52 prisoners are expected to be released by mid-November
  • All were arrested in a 2003 crackdown on political dissent

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Five Cuban political prisoners and their families boarded an airplane to Madrid, Spain, on Thursday night, bringing the number of prisoners released into exile in the past two weeks to 20, according to the Spanish Embassy in Havana.

A total of 52 jailed dissidents are expected to be freed by mid-November as part of the biggest release of political prisoners in more than a decade. The Spanish government and the Catholic Church brokered the deal with Cuban President Raul Castro earlier this month.

They represent roughly one-third of known political prisoners in Cuba.

All 52 were sentenced in 2003 as part of a crackdown on opponents that Cuba said were in the pay of the government in Washington.

International pressure to free them grew in recent months after jailed dissident Orlando Zapata died following an 84-day hunger strike.