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Church: 10 Cuban dissidents, including Nobel nominee, to be released

By the CNN Wire Staff
Raul Castro's government released ten more prisoners who have been in jail since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents.
Raul Castro's government released ten more prisoners who have been in jail since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Dissident: "This is a victory for all the Cuban people"
  • Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez is to be freed from a Cuban prison, the Catholic church says
  • Nine others will also be released, going on to live in exile in Spain
  • Gonzalez was nominated for a Nobel Peace Price for his championing of human rights
RELATED TOPICS
  • Cuba
  • Spain

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Ten Cuban prisoners -- including a doctor nominated last month for the Nobel Peace Prize -- will be released from prison, the Roman Catholic Church said .

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez was among scores of people imprisoned during the Cuban government's 2003 crackdown on political dissidents. He founded and ran the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights and also led the "Friends of Human Rights" group in Cuba, according to the U.S.-based non-profit group Freedom Now, which "works to free individual prisoners of conscience."

National legislators in Canada, Great Britain, the European Union and the United States -- as well as the prime minister of Hungary, and the Freedom Now and the Lawton Foundation organizations -- nominated Gonzalez for a Nobel Peace Prize in February for his dedication to "non-violent social change."

The nine prisoners besides Gonzalez will travel to Spain after their release, according to statement from Havana's Catholic archdiocese.

"This is a victory for all the Cuban people -- those who are in exile or in Cuba, those who are inside jails or those who are supposedly free on the streets of Cuba," dissident Guillermo Farinas told CNN en Español Thursday.

Farinas, a psychologist and writer, gained international attention last February when he stopped eating for 135 days to protest the Cuban government's imprisonment of political activists. His hunger strike came to an end in July after Cuba began to release dissidents as part of an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church and Spain to empty Cuba's jails of political prisoners.

"This is a victory for all the Cuban people, including those who govern, who have realized that they should respond in a humanitarian manner. Because simply and truly, what these men and women have done is oppose the government peacefully," Farinas said in response to Thursday's announcement.

Last year, Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to release all 52 prisoners jailed during the 2003 crackdown. The Caribbean nation has released many of them, as well as other prisoners jailed for "counterrevolutionary" activities, ranging from hijacking to arson.

Thursday's news means that at least 80 political prisoners will have been released in recent months, with most of them going on to live in Spain.

CNN's Nelson Quinones contributed to this report.

 
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