Cuba frees another dissident

Cuba’s dissident Oscar Elias Biscet, left, embraces fellow dissident Angel Polanco, after being released from jail in Havana, Cuba, Friday, March 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Javier Galeano
AP Photo/Javier Galeano

Cuba’s Catholic Church says the Raul Castro administration has agreed to set free another political dissident jailed since a 2003 crackdown on opposition elements.

Orlando Marquez, the church’s spokesman said Ricardo Librado Linares Garcia will be freed, bringing to two the number of political prisoners who remain jailed in the 2003 crackdown.

Marquez said Havana has also agreed to release nine other prisoners, who will be sent into exile in Spain, along with their families.

Last week, the administration freed leading dissident, Oscar Elias Biscet, who had served more than 11 years in prison and was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom for his steadfast advocacy of peaceful opposition to the communist system.

“I am not going to say that I will continue in the opposition, because, in jail, I never stopped fighting against this government and the abuses it commits,” Biscet told reporters after he was set free.

The 49-year-old Black doctor was serving a 25-year prison sentence for “acts against the sovereignty and independence of the national territory” under the notorious Law 88 of 1999, also known as the Gag Law.

Biscet founded the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy, and has been active in a Christian-based campaign that opposes Cuba’s use of the drug Rivanol for late-term abortions.

His unrelenting criticism of the Cuban government, calls for peaceful civil disobedience and quiet manner have won him praise in and out of Cuba, as well as the 2007 Medal of Freedom awarded by President George W. Bush.

Biscet said three state security agents had delivered him to his home in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana and to his wife, Elsa Morejón.

Biscet’s imminent freedom was announced by the office of Cardenal Jaime Ortega, Catholic archbishop of Havana, as part of a broad release of political prisoners that he announced last Jul. 7 after a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro.

Ortega said Castro had agreed to free the last 52 dissidents still in prison from a harsh crackdown in 2003 that sentenced 75 dissidents, including Biscet, to prison terms of up to 28 years.

Forty were released by the Nov. 7 deadline after they agreed to go directly from prison to exile in Spain.

But Biscet and 11 others refused to leave the country and were kept in prison beyond the deadline.

Meanwhile, in stark contrast, Cuban government supporters surrounded the home of a leading dissident Laura Pollan on Friday, hurling insults at her and other opposition figures who had gathered inside to mark the anniversary of the 2003 crackdown.

About 200 pro-government demonstrators encircled the house of the dissident, one of the leaders of the opposition group, Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White.

They called the dissidents “worms” while shouted slogans in support of former president Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul.

The Ladies in White, who are wives or mothers of former and current political prisoners, have been marching peacefully each Sunday since their relatives were arrested in the government sweep.

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