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Cuba releases imprisoned activists

The Cuban authorities released four activists from prison over the weekend. The four were arrested in a political crackdown in March 2003, which imprisoned 75 dissidents. Omar Pernet Hernandez, 62, Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, 59, José Gabriel Ramon Castillo, 50, and independent journalist Alejandro Gonzalez Raga, 48, were released. Fifty-eight people recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience remain in prison. Amnesty International welcomed the releases, but, in a statement, urged Raul Castro to urgently release the 58 and to guarantee the right to freedom of expression on the island. "The release of the four Cuban prisoners of conscience is a very positive step but we must not forget about the at least 58 people who remain held in prisons across Cuba for the sole reason of expressing their political views," said Kerrie Howard, Deputy Director at Amnesty International's Americas Programme. "We hope that the recent release is a sign of change in Cuba, a further openness to improving respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and association."