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Cuba frees another journalist jailed in 2003 crackdown

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, October 12, 2010 - Cuban journalist Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was freed from prison on Friday and exiled to Spain as part of a July agreement between the Havana government and the Catholic Church. Seventeen journalists jailed in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown have now been freed and exiled as part of the agreement.

"I feel as if I was born again, trying to get used to cell phones, personal computers and emails, all things that were barely known in Cuba before I was jailed," Fuentes told CPJ in a telephone interview.

Fuentes said that he never wanted to leave Cuba, but seven years of incarceration made it too hard to stay. "It was a difficult decision, but even more difficult was to turn down the offer and remain in jail," he explained.

Fuentes, a freelance reporter originally based in the city of Artemisa, began serving a 26-year prison term in March 2003. He arrived in Madrid shortly after noon on Friday, accompanied by ten members of his family.

In July, the Catholic Church brokered an agreement with Cuban authorities to release 52 political prisoners who were arrested seven years ago, during a massive government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism. Spanish government officials also participated in the talks.

All 17 of the reporters released so far have been immediately flown to Spain. (One has since relocated to Chile.)

Three journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown remain in jail, along with another journalist imprisoned at a later time, CPJ research shows. The first three - including CPJ awardee Héctor Maseda - have already expressed their desire to stay in Cuba upon release, the reporters' families told CPJ.

A story published in September by the Madrid-based daily El País quoted Spanish officials as saying that imprisoned reporters who want to stay in Cuba upon release will be freed through a parole program. The Cuban government has not confirmed the existence of such a program.
Click here to access a capsule report on Fuentes' case from CPJ's 2009 census of jailed journalists

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