Cuba allowing dissidents to emigrate (News Feature)
By Vicente Poveda Oct 15, 2010, 19:16 GMT
Havana - The Cuban government is allowing several dissidents and the family of Orlando Zapata, a political prisoner who died of a hunger strike earlier this year, to leave the country for good.
Elizardo Sanchez, head of the dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), told the German Press Agency dpa Thursday that Zapata's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, got the government offer through the Roman Catholic Church.
Cuban authorities directly made similar offers to former prisoners among the group of 75 dissidents jailed in March 2003 who were freed on a form of probation, Sanchez said.
The dissident leader said that Roberto de Miranda, Carmelo Diaz, Margarito Broche and Marcelo Lopez had previously asked to leave and are getting ready to do so.
'The government has kept them here for years. Others, like Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Martha Beatriz Roque, Jorge Olivera and Hector Palacios are defending their right to leave Cuba, but in such a way as to be able to return,' Sanchez said.
Espinosa, sentenced to 20 years in jail and released from prison in 2004 for health reasons, said he and his wife, a fellow activist, were summoned to a meeting Thursday, where they were offered one-way exit permits.
'I replied that I had no wish to leave my homeland for good but wanted to be able to leave temporarily, that is, to be able to go abroad and be guaranteed the right to return to Cuba. My wife, Miriam Leiva, expressed the same decision,' Espinosa said in a statement.
The archbishop of Havana told Tamayo that the whole Zapata family would be allowed to leave. However, the mother of the dead hunger striker said she would only go if she could leave with her son's ashes.
Orlando Zapata died on February 23 after an 83-day hunger strike, triggering a wave of international criticism of Cuba's communist government.
After weeks of talks with the government of President Raul Castro, the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba announced in early July that authorities would release the remaining 52 political prisoners from among 2003's group of 75 jailed dissidents. Of these 52, 39 have already left jail and travelled to Spain with their families.
The church said last week that three prisoners who were not included in the original official deal also will be released for departure to Spain.
According to the CCDHRN, there remain around 100 political prisoners in Cuba. The government denies that it holds any political prisoners, insisting that all are all common criminals who violated Cuban law.
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