Source AP ©

Cuba releases 6 political dissidents

Six dissidents considered political prisoners by several Cuban human rights groups were released Tuesday.

It was unclear why the communist government freed the men, but a majority had served all or most of their sentences of two to four years.

On Sunday, dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as "Antunez", was released from prison after serving his full 17-year sentence for spreading enemy propaganda and attempted sabotage.

Aida Valdes Santana, spokeswoman for the Havana-based National Coordinate of Political Prisoners, said those released Tuesday were: Lazaro Alonso Roman, Manuel Perez Soria, Elio Enrique Chavez Ramon, Jose Diaz Silva, Emilio Leyva Perez and Dulian Ramirez Ballester.

None were among the 75 independent journalists, rights advocates and other activists arrested in a widely criticized government crackdown in March 2003.

Perez Soria and Alonso Roman said by phone that they were both arrested on charges of public disorder during an anti-government protest in Havana in July 2005.

According to the non-governmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there were 283 political prisoners on the island at the end of 2006.

The Cuban government says it holds no prisoners of conscience - only common criminals - and characterizes the jailed dissidents as mercenaries and counterrevolutionaries.

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