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Cuba releases second political dissident in a week

[JURIST] The Cuban government has released a second imprisoned political dissident in less than a week, the National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish] said Wednesday. Labor movement activist Lazaro Gonzalez Adan was imprisoned in 2004 after refusing police orders to remove quotes painted on his home that were deemed critical of the Cuban government; he was sentenced to three years in prison for disrespecting authorities and resisting arrest. Last week, another dissident, former president of the Cuban National Council for Civil Rights Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez [Amnesty backgrounder], was released [JURIST report] after 13 years in prison. Chaviano was sentenced in May 1994 to 15 years for allegedly "revealing state security secrets" and "falsifying public documents" by documenting cases of refugees who disappeared or died trying to flee Cuba, and was one of the longest-held prisoners of conscience [Amnesty backgrounder] in the world.

The CCDHRN estimates that the number of political prisoners in detention has dropped by over 20 percent since acting president Raul Castro assumed duties from Cuban President Fidel Castro [BBC profiles] on July 31, 2006. As of June 30, 2007, a reported 246 political prisoners were being held in Cuba, down from 316 the previous year. Critics deny that the releases of Chaviano and Gonzalez are evidence of changing policy toward dissidents. Opposition proponents continue to report harassment by Cuban police. AP has more.

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