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Cuba grants early release to political dissident

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Vladimiro Roca Antunez, one of Cuba's best-known dissidents and the son of one of the founders of the island's communist regime, was released from prison Sunday, two months before he was to have completed his five-year sentence.

Roca was a member of the "Group of Four," leaders of the Internal Dissidents Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation.

Roca and the three others, Marta Beatriz Roque, Felix Bonne, and Rene Gomez Manzano, were arrested in July 1997 after the publication of "The Motherland Belongs to Us All," an article which called for respect for human rights on the island and which was considered critical of the government of President Fidel Castro.

The members of the "Group of Four" were convicted of sedition in March 1999 for their leadership roles in the dissident group.

Roca was sentenced to five years, including time served. He had been scheduled for release in July from the prison in Cienfuegos, about three hours from Havana.

But Saturday, his wife told the Reuters News Agency she had learned her husband's release was imminent.

The move was apparently a conciliatory gesture from the Castro government intended to pave the way for next week's scheduled visit by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the first by a former U.S. president to Cuba since Castro took power in 1959.

Roca is a decorated military pilot and the son of Blas Roca, a founder of Castro's Marxist-Leninist regime.




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