The families of Cuban political prisoners expressed their hope Wednesday that those who are sick may be released. On Tuesday, Cuban authorities began the first transfers of political prisoners to jails near their homes, Catholic Church officials and the opposition said.
Tuesday's initial transfers involved seven opposition activists who were given long prison terms in facilities far from their families after a 2003 wave of dissident arrests and convictions, the officials said.
The transfers were negotiated between church leaders and President Raul Castro.
We are very optimistic, very hopeful. This is like a little light coming in from a crack in a window said Berta Soler member of the group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), made up of the mothers and wives of government critics jailed in 2003.
We are waiting at any minute to be called and told that some of those most ill have been released, because we have several who are very sick and elderly, added the wife of jailed dissident Angel Moya, sentenced to 20 years in jail.
The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), an umbrella organization for dissidents, expects up to 10 further prisoners to be moved to their home provinces.
Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega awakened hope after his talks two weeks ago with Castro that the government would also free sick prisoners.
Dissident Guillermo Farinas, who began a hunger strike in February to win the release of the ill political prisoners, called the transfers praiseworthy and called for more.
According to human rights organizations, there are about 200 political prisoners in Cuba. The Cuban government calls them ‘stooges and spies’ of the US government, and says they have been duly tried and condemned for breaking the law.