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53 Cuban political prisoners are free, but controversy remains
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/14/2015 7:00 AM 01/14/2015 8:03 PM

Even though the United States has verified that all 53 Cuban political
prisoners on a list it submitted to Havana last summer have been freed,
the list continues to stir controversy.

First, monitors said the numbers didn’t add up. By their
count, 39 political prisoners were released starting Dec. 17 when the
United States and Cuba announced they were renewing diplomatic ties
after 53 years of isolation.

But the White House had an explanation for that this week. It submitted
a list of political prisoners it wanted to see freed to the Cubans in
July, and since then some on the list began to come out of Cuban prisons
— even though negotiations with Havana were ongoing.

“You can imagine that the list of 53 political prisoners that we
produced to the Castro regime was not a list that we gave them the day
before we made this announcement [on normalization of relations],” said
White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “This is a list that was extensively
reviewed and negotiated and discussed.”

It was developed, he said, with the help of human rights organizations
and included those “imprisoned by the Cuban government for exercising
internationally protected freedoms or for their promotion of political
and social reforms in Cuba.”

The release of the 53 prisoners was a promise that Cuba made. Although
it was discussed in the secret talks, it was not part of the
normalization deal.

The media also has pressed the White House to unveil the 53 names but
the administration instead opted to give the list to members of Congress
who were then free to share it.

One of the reasons the White House isn’t publicly disseminating the
list, said Earnest, is that it doesn’t want to give “the impression that
these are the only 53 political prisoners that we care about. There are
other individuals who are being unjustly detained in Cuban prisons, and
we’re going to continue to advocate and push for the Castro regime…to
release those individuals as well,” Earnest said.

The Miami Herald obtained the list from a Congressional source and has
researched the backgrounds of the former prisoners. Some were imprisoned
only since last year, but at least one was serving a sentence that goes
back to 2010. Among the offenses that landed them in jail were
dangerousness, public disorder, resisting arrest, distributing
anti-government leaflets, and disrespecting the Castro brothers.

Human rights activists also point out that many of the political
prisoners released in recent days haven’t been unconditionally freed.
Some have charges pending against them; others were released
conditionally or on an extra-penal license that could land them back in
jail if they run afoul of Cuban authorities.

Source: 53 Cuban political prisoners are free, but controversy remains |
The Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article6544485.html

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