Cuba releases 'some' political prisoners; unknown number remain jailed

The U.S. Department of State declined to identify the individuals who were released or to say how many remain jailed.
By JC Finley  |  Jan. 7, 2015 at 11:11 AM
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HAVANA, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The government of Cuba has released an unspecified number of political prisoners, the U.S. Department of State announced Tuesday.

The prisoners are among a group of 53 who the U.S. identified as having been "jailed in Cuba on charges related to their political activities." In December, that list was shared with the Cuban government in an effort to gain their release, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday.

Psaki declined to identify the individuals on the list or to specify how many have been released.

Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 -- the same day that President Barack Obama revealed a normalization of relations with Cuba -- that the political prisoners would be released.

"This is a commitment they made not just to the United States but to the Vatican as well," Psaki noted. Pope Francis was credited with playing a significant role in the historic breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba.

Psaki said Tuesday that discussions with Cuban officials would continue with the hope that the remaining prisoners are released "in the near future."

Such discussions about human rights issues will likely be held more regularly with Cuban counterparts, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

"Now that that policy change has been enacted, we anticipate that there will be greater focus on encouraging the Cuban government to change their policy toward their own people and start respecting basic human rights and releasing political prisoners and doing the kinds of things that reflect the will and ambition of the Cuban people."

Obama is expected to address human rights concerns at the Summit of the Americas in April.

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