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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Cuba 'releases jailed dissidents'
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At least seven dissidents have been released from jail in Cuba, human rights groups have said.

Dissident sources said one, Jorge Luis Garcia - a long-time critic of Fidel Castro's government - was freed after serving a 17-year sentence.

Six others were also freed after serving about two years, sources said.

The reported releases coincide with the sentencing to jail in Cuba of two more critics - one to 12 years and another to four, rights groups said.

'Social dangerousness'

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Havana says the last few days appear to have seen some notable movement on the part of the Cuban authorities regarding dissidents.

After four years in jail without charge, Rolando Jimenez is reported to have been imprisoned for 12 years following a closed trial in Havana.

The dissident lawyer is understood to have written several slogans critical of President Castro on the walls of public buildings in the capital.

A few days earlier, independent journalist Oscar Sanchez was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for alleged social dangerousness.

The Cuban government has not commented on any of the cases.

It has long alleged that there are no political prisoners in Cuba, and that those it jails are mercenaries paid by the US government to undermine the Cuban Revolution.

Our correspondent says one possible explanation for the releases is that next month a meeting is scheduled between representatives of the Cuban and Spanish governments in an attempt to deepen ties.

He says the issue of human rights is, broadly, on the agenda, although Cuba has indicated that it regards its policy towards dissidents as an "internal matter", not to be discussed with other countries.


SEE ALSO
Cuba sentences dissident to jail
23 Apr 07 |  Americas
Cuba frees well-known dissident
06 Dec 06 |  Americas
Cuba warns dissidents over US aid
12 Jul 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
23 Feb 07 |  Country profiles

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