Cuba sets free defiant dissident journalist Hernandez

Ivan Hernandez (image from Miami-based Cuban website payolibre.com) Ivan Hernandez was freed on Friday

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The Cuban government has freed a jailed dissident who refused to go into exile in Spain as a condition for release.

Ivan Hernandez, a journalist who was one of 75 opponents of the government arrested in 2003, was released along with six other prisoners.

He is among a group of dissidents whose freedom was brokered by the Roman Catholic Church, and most of whom were flown to Spain upon release.

He said he meant to continue working as an independent journalist.

"A major from the interior ministry told me that since I was being released from jail, that I should stay quiet at my home," he told AFP news agency by telephone from his home in Matanzas, 100km (62 miles) east of the capital Havana.

"But I told him that I was going to keep writing and working as an independent journalist just like before they convicted me."

Church deal

Mr Hernandez, 39, was jailed for 25 years while working for the dissident news agency Patria (Fatherland).

The deal brokered by the Church last year was meant to see the release of 52 dissidents.

Forty of these were released and accepted exile in Spain, while the other 12 refused to leave Cuba.

Mr Hernandez is among six of the latter who have been released.

Of the 75 people arrested in 2003, six remain in custody.

Speaking to the Associated Press after his release on Friday, Mr Hernandez said he was in good health, though feeling stress, and he thanked the Church for its help.

"I have faith that this process will continue until all are freed," he added, referring to those dissidents still in prison.

There was no immediate comment from the Cuban government, which regards dissidents as criminals disloyal to the communist state.

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