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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Cuban dissidents freed from jail
Cuban dissident Leonardo Miguel Bruzon Avila after his release from jail, with his sister
Mr Bruzon says he has a visa for France
Four Cuban dissidents held in prison without trial for more than two years have been unexpectedly released.

They include Leonardo Bruzon Avila, 49, a human rights group leader whose cause has been championed across the world.

Mr Bruzon was freed with an opposition journalist and two members of a smaller dissident group. They were all arrested over two years ago on sedition charges.

Mr Bruzon has drawn support from human rights groups and was named in a recent speech by US President George Bush.

Mr Bruzon said he would leave Cuba for France to push his message to the outside world.

"I want to continue fighting for the defence of human rights in Cuba," Mr Bruzon told reporters from his home in Havana.

'Prisoners of conscience'

He said he had been granted a humanitarian visa for France after his health deteriorated badly during a recent hunger strike - during which he was taken to hospital weighing 39kg (5st 5lb).

The other three men released were Carlos Alberto Dominguez, a journalist, and Emilio Leyva Perez and Lazaro Rodriguez Capote, members of the small Pro Human Rights Party.

President Fidel Castro's government has launched a recent crackdown on dissidents said to be "counter-revolutionaries" working for the United States.

The four were among 88 dissidents in Cuba granted the status of "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International.

They were arrested on 22 February 2002 for trying to organise memorial ceremonies for four Cuban exiles whose aircraft were shot down by the Cuban authorities near the island in 1996.

A month-and-a-half ago another dissident, Julio Valdes Guevara, was released on health grounds.

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Timeline: Cuba
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