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Page last updated at 07:03 GMT, Saturday, 15 May 2010 08:03 UK

Cuban court quashes dissident Garcia's jail sentence

Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

Dania Garcia flashes a victory sign as she arrives at court in Havana, 14 May 2010.
Garcia was serving her sentence in the high-security Manto Negro prison

A Cuban appeal court has quashed the jail sentence given to dissident journalist Dania Garcia and given her a minor fine instead.

Ms Garcia, a blogger who writes for US-based opposition websites, had been sentenced to 20 months in jail after a domestic row with her daughter.

She was charged with abuse of authority for mistreating the 23-year-old, who disapproved of her political activism.

Human Rights groups said the charges were politically motivated.

Speaking to reporters on leaving the courtroom, Ms Garcia called the ruling "a victory for the opposition".

"I feel that one more time, we will overcome, once again, we the Cuban opposition, the human rights, once again we're winning and we will continue to win," she said.

'Sign of the times?'

Ms Garcia, 41, said she had been prosecuted because she supports the Ladies in White - a group of wives and mothers of dissident men.

Her arrest came at the same time as a crackdown on the group with an attempt to ban their longstanding weekly marches.

Ladies in White protesting on 2 May 2010
The Ladies in White hold weekly marches for dissident prisoners

The authorities later backed down on their attempts to halt the marches - which call for the release of more than 50 dissidents who were given lengthy jail sentences in 2003 - following the intervention of Cuba's Catholic Church.

Having started her sentence in the high-security Manto Negro prison on the outskirts of Havana, an appeals court on Friday overturned the conviction, instead fining her 300 pesos ($14; £9.60) - the equivalent of about three weeks' wages for an average worker.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Human Rights Commission, said the reversal of the prison sentence and allowing the marches to continue was a "sign of the times" indicating that Cuba's leader are trying to avoid bad press abroad.

The Cuban authorities deny that the dissidents are political prisoners, calling them mercenaries paid by the United States to undermine the system.



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