Cuban dissident freed after death of fellow activist

Cuban opposition activist Guillermo Farinas, seen in a file photo from 2010, has staged several hunger strikes.

Story highlights

  • Guillermo Farinas was released from prison Friday
  • The release comes one day after another dissident died
  • Farinas has undertaken several hunger strikes
Cuban authorities released dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas from prison Friday, a day after another hunger striker died while protesting his arrest.
According to the news website Cuba Encuentro, Farinas was arrested Saturday together with other human rights activists on the communist island.
Farinas has staged several hunger strikes demanding the release of political prisoners. He has been arrested several times by the Cuban government.
The dissident was in prison this week when another activist, Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died in a hospital after his kidneys and other organs failed.
A Cuban court sentenced Villar Mendoza to four years in prison in November, a sentence he felt was unjust, said Yoani Sanchez, a prominent Cuban blogger and advocate of press freedom in the country.
Villar Mendoza's death comes at an awkward time for President Raul Castro's government. Another prisoner on a hunger strike died earlier this month, and Pope Benedict XVI is due to visit Cuba in the coming months.
The other hunger striker, Rene Cobas, began his protest because he was not part of the government's recent mass pardon.
Cobas had gone on strike immediately after the president announced the latest round of amnesty on December 23. Cobas called the pardons "exclusive and limited," Sanchez said.
The decision to release 2,900 prisoners followed "numerous requests" from their family members and religious institutions, and was a humanitarian gesture, Castro said last month.
He cited the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict as one of the motivations behind the move, which he said showed the "generosity and strength of the revolution."
Among those were to be freed were prisoners over the age of 60, along with those who were sick, female or young with no previous criminal record.
The pope has said he plans to visit Mexico and Cuba before Easter.