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More Cuban political prisoners to be released, Catholic Church says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The three prisoners were not part of a mass release announced earlier this year
  • Cuba had pledged to release 52 political prisoners
  • Earlier, Cuba said it would release another nine detainees, many convicted of violent crimes

(CNN) -- Three Cuban political prisoners who were not part of an originally announced release, will nonetheless be freed, Cuba's Roman Catholic Church said Saturday.

The three would join 52 other detainees Cuba pledged to free following a deal brokered by the island's Catholic Church and Spain's foreign ministry, according to a news release by archbishop of Havana.

The church identified the three additional prisoners as Rolando Jimenez Posada, Arturo Suarez Ramos and Ciro Perez Santana.

Jimenez was sentenced to 12 years in 2003 for disclosing secrets concerning national security, the state-owned EFE news agency reported.

Suarez has spent 23 years in prison as part of a 30-year sentence for intent to leave Cuba illegally and piracy, EFE said.

The third prisoner, Perez, was arrested in 1994 and is serving a 20-year sentence for intent to leave the country illegally, piracy, and having illegal weapons, the agency reported.

The announcement by the Catholic Church follows the news that Cuba will also release nine other prisoners.

Head of the island's independent Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, said those nine -- many of whom were convicted of violent crimes -- recently met with interior ministry officials to discuss their freedom and exile.

International pressure grew when one jailed dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died earlier this year following a prolonged hunger strike protesting inmate living conditions.

The Cuban government responded by promising to free the group by November in the largest release of political prisoners in more than a decade.

This weekend's announcement brings to 42 the total number of prisoners who have agreed to their freedom and exile to Spain, the church said. But the total number of dissidents behind bars remains unclear.

Sanchez claims that more than one hundred political prisoners are still behind bars, enduring what he described as long and politically-motivated prison sentences for what he acknowledges are legitimate convictions.

CNN's David Ariosto contributed to this report.