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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 23:55 GMT
Cuba frees dissident journalist
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

Cuban dissident journalist Jorge Olivera Castillo (right) and his wife
Mr Olivera has been reunited with his wife
An independent journalist has been released from jail in Cuba.

Jorge Olivera is the seventh dissident to be freed by the Cuban authorities in the last week.

He was one of 75 opponents to Cuban leader Fidel Castro who were rounded up last year during a crackdown by the country's Communist-led government.

Mr Olivera, who suffers from a digestive illness, said he believed that pressure from the European Union helped to contribute to his release.

Walking free for the first time in 21 months, Jorge Olivera appeared delighted to be released. He said he had not expected it.

No explanation

Two years ago, the former television producer at Cuba state television used to write articles for an illegal independent magazine on the island.

Some of his work was critical of Cuba's government and system.

Last year, he was arrested, accused of being a mercenary in the pay of the US and, after a trial lasting a few hours, sentenced to 18 years in jail.

The Cuban authorities have given no explanation for his release, or that of the six other dissidents allowed home last week.

All those who have been freen have medical problems and it is widely assumed that Cuba is keen to avoid having to admit that a dissident has died in jail.

The releases come at a time when the government is attempting to improve relations with the European Union, particularly with Spain's socialist government.

Although welcoming this latest gesture by Cuba, most European diplomats in Havana doubt that they are witnessing a major change of heart by Fidel Castro's government.

Of the 75 dissidents imprisoned last year, 61 remain in jail.

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