Two Cuban dissidents get early release from prison

Two Cuban political prisoners, included one identified by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience,” have been released early from their sentences on charges of resisting arrest and “dangerousness,” dissidents reported Wednesday.

Rafael Matos Montes de Oca and Roelvis Cuba-Sendó, both from the eastern city of Guantánamo and activists in the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), were freed Tuesday, according to a group official.

Matos was arrested Sept. 27, 2012 on charges of “pre-criminal dangerousness” for posting anti-Castro posters and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, Yoanny Beltran, UNPACU’s secretary for the province of Guantánamo, said by phone from Cuba.

The London-based Amnesty International rights group declared Matos and four other jailed Cubans as “prisoners of conscience” last summer, saying they were arrested for their peaceful opposition to the government.

Cuba-Sendó was arrested Aug. 29, 2012 as he protested at a Guantánamo police station against the detention of two members of the dissident Ladies in White, Beltran said. He was charged with resisting arrest and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

UNPACU director José Daniél Ferrer said there was no explanation for the early releases but speculated the Cuban government might be trying to clean up its image as it seeks to warm up relations with the European Union.

Matos and Cuba-Sendó could not be reached for a comment.

The Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported this month that the island’s jails hold 87 political prisoners, including about 40 members of UNPACU.

One of the most active dissident groups on the island, UNPACU was founded by Ferrer in 2012. He was one of the 75 dissidents rounded up during a 2003 crackdown known as “Cuba’s Black Spring” and served nine years of a 25-year sentence.

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