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Cuba to free six political inmates

Cuba's Roman Catholic Church has revealed the names of six more political prisoners who are to be released into exile in Spain under a sweeping agreement with President Raul Castro's government.

The men are among 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason.

In a landmark deal, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still jailed from the crackdown, which human rights activists call the Black Spring.

Word of the latest releases bring to 26 the number freed so far - and all agreed to leave Cuba for Spain, with one then settling in Chile.

Church official Orlando Marquez said the next six set for release are Marcelo Manuel Cano Rodriguez, Regis Iglesias Ramirez, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Efren Fernandez Fernandez, Fabio Prieto Llorente and Juan Adolfo Fernandez Sainz.

Both the Cuban government and the church say releasing all 52 will take months.

But the announcement was the first word of new releases in nearly two weeks, after an initial wave of 20 prisoners were freed fairly quickly.

Some political prisoners in Cuba were offered freedom but declined, saying they want to stay in their homeland. It is not clear if those released subsequently will be exiled or if some will be allowed to stay in the country.

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