All political prisoners released in US-Cuba deal

2015-01-12 21:28
US President Barack Obama. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

US President Barack Obama. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

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Washington - Cuba has freed all 53 political prisoners agreed to in last month's normalisation deal with the United States, a senior US administration official said on Monday.

"We welcome this very positive development and are pleased that the Cuban government followed through on this commitment. Our Interests Section in Havana was able to verify these releases," the official said.

"These political prisoners were individuals who had been cited by various human rights organisations as being imprisoned by the Cuban government for exercising internationally protected freedoms or for their promotion of political and social reforms in Cuba," the US official added.

Dissident leaders said late last week that Cuba had released more than 40 dissidents by late Friday, as part of last month's historic bilateral rapprochement in which Cuba agreed to free dozens of political prisoners as part of the deal to end a five-decade standoff with the United States.

Now, "the Cuban government has notified us that they have completed the release of the 53 political prisoners that they had committed to free," according to the US official.

"During our discussions with the Cubans, we shared the names of individuals jailed in Cuba on charges related to their political activities. The Cuban government made the sovereign decision to release those individuals," the official added.

Washington is seen as likely to ramp up pressure on Cuba on the issue of human rights, as the two nations prepare to hold talks in Havana 21 January - 22 January to lay the foundation for their historic rapprochement.

Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Roberta Jacobson will lead the US delegation to the groundbreaking talks in the Cuban capital.

Jacobson is set to be the highest-ranking US official to visit the Caribbean island in several decades. She last set foot in Cuba in 2011 when she held a lower office at the State Department.

A Cuban roundup of about 50 dissidents late last month briefly caused a new diplomatic scuffle with Washington, just days after the announcement of their historic renewal of bilateral ties.

The detentions revived criticism from those who disapprove of the rapprochement arrangement - including many members of the US Congress - who have said that the United States should first have secured concessions from Cuba on democratic reforms and human rights.

Cuba's President Raul Castro has said he is willing to discuss any topic with Washington as part of their historic diplomatic breakthrough, but that he will not carry out political change.

Read more on:    cuba  |  us

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