Church: Cuba agrees to free political prisoner
HAVANA — Roman Catholic leaders announced Friday that Cuban authorities have agreed to free an ill political prisoner and transfer six others to jails nearer home, the latest in a series of concessions from the Cuban government.
The decision means freedom for Ariel Sigler, one of 75 activists, he has been hospitalized recently for an unknown ailment.
Six other prisoners — Hector Fernando Maceda, Juan Adolfo Fernandez, Omar Moises Ruiz, Efren Fernandez, Jesus Mustafa Felipe and Juan Carlos Herrera — will be moved to jails closer to their homes, bringing to 12 the number of imprisoned sent to new facilities this month.
The moves, announced by the office of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, are set to take place Saturday.
They come just days before a visit to Cuba by the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
Mamberti is heading a gathering that is due to wade into some deeply political issues, holding discussions on the country's economic and social problems as well as the issue of Cuban emigration and its effect on the family.
In May, Ortega negotiated an end to a ban on marches by a small group of wives and mothers of some of the dissidents jailed in 2003 known as the Ladies in White.
The cardinal and another church leader later met with Castro, coming away from the encounter convinced the government was prepared to start on a road to better relations with the opposition.
Sigler's release would be the first since negotiations began, and would raise hopes that more are on the way.
By PAUL HAVEN