Cuba Releases Six Political Prisoners, French Group Says
PARIS (AP) _ Yielding to international pressure, Cuba has released six political prisoners including two prominent dissidents, a French human rights group said Tuesday.
France Libertes, led by former first lady Danielle Mitterrand, said in a statement that it was informed of the releases by Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns called the report ``good news″ and ``a step in the right direction.″ But he added: ``We’re very concerned by this apparent crackdown on human rights activists.″
``It would appear that the Cuban regime remains determined to arrest and prosecute on state security grounds members of independent human rights organizations,″ Burns said.
Castro, a friend of former President Francois Mitterrand and his wife, agreed during a visit to France in March to a allow a fact-finding mission on human rights.
The mission visited Havana at the beginning of May asked for the release of five political prisoners, among as many as 600 that Amnesty International estimates are being held.
Among those released are Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, the brother of Gustavo Arcos, president of the banned Cuban Committee for Human Rights. Bergnes was sentenced in 1992 to four years and eight months in prison for ``enemy propaganda.″
Yndamiro Restano, sentenced to 10 years in May 1992 for ``rebellion,″ was also released, France Libertes said.
In a statement, Mrs. Mitterrand said she didn’t know when the prisoners were released.
Burns said 15 members of the outlawed Cuban committee were detained between May 13 and May 16 in three provinces. Eleven were released within a day, one was held for four days and the three others remain in detention, Burns said. He said he didn’t know if the six mentioned Tuesday were in the same group.
The four other prisoners released were Agustin Figueredo, Pedro Castillo, Ismael Salvia et Luis Henrique Gonzalez, France Libertes said. A seventh prisoner, Omar del Pozo, ``will be treated in a hospital for hypertension,″ it said.
The fact-finding group included Jose Miguel Vivanco, president of Human Rights Watch Americas; Raphael Doueb, vice president of France Libertes; Daniel Jacoby, president of the International Federation for Human Rights; and Pierre Micheletti of Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).