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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 03:32 GMT 04:32 UK
Fewer political prisoners in Cuba
Raul Castro
The provisional government was criticised for human rights abuses
An independent Cuban human rights group says there are fewer political prisoners in the country since Raul Castro took over as interim leader.

The group says up to 70 political prisoners have been freed in the past year, continuing a trend.

But it says the government in Havana still systematically violates the human rights of its citizens.

International inspection of its overcrowded prisons and labour camps is not allowed, the group's report said.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said political prisoners still represented an "alarming" percentage of the Cuban population and that human rights violations were still widespread.

'Police state'

"Still in force is a police state whose nature is reflected in almost every aspect of national life," the report said.

Freedom of expression and association, and the right to form trade unions or political organizations, is still suppressed and criminalized under a penal code.

The commission, whose reports are regularly used by international groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, is illegal in Cuba but tolerated by the communist state.

The group was also critical of United States sanctions against Cuba for causing hardship to the Cuban people and providing the government with a justification for its economic failures.

Raul Castro has been acting president since his brother, Fidel, fell ill and underwent intestinal surgery last year.

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