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Journalist Jorge Olivera Castillo released on medical grounds

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has welcomed the release for health reasons of Jorge Olivera Castillo - the fourth independent journalist to be freed in the past eight days - and voiced the hope that Cuban authorities will free the other 22 journalists still detained in Cuba.

Of the 75 dissidents detained in a March 2003 crackdown, seven have so far been freed since 29 November 2004. The three other journalists to have been released are Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Raúl Rivero and Edel José García Díaz.

In a 30 November statement, RSF called on the Cuban government to show a real commitment to democratisation by "putting an end to the state monopoly of news and information."

The organisation also called on the European Union to maintain its close relations with Cuba's dissidents and to continue to condition its relations with the Cuban government on an "improvement in the situation of human rights and political freedoms" and a respect for democratic pluralism.

Olivera Castillo has serious gastric problems and eye trouble caused by glaucoma and high blood pressure. Human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez, of the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional, CCDHRN), told Agence France-Presse that of all the detained dissidents, Olivera Castillo was among those in the worst shape. He added, "There may be one or two more releases in the hours or days to come, but there won't be any massive release of prisoners of conscience."

Olivera Castillo, aged 41 and the director of the independent news agency Havana Press, was arrested at his Havana home on 18 March 2003 and given a summary trial, along with three other journalists, two weeks later. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for writing articles for the website and the Spanish magazine "Encuentro" that were deemed to be "against national independence and Cuba's economy" under Cuba's Law 88.

A former employee of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), Olivera Castillo was a television news editor for 10 years. He tried to leave Cuba on a raft in 1992, but was caught and detained for three days. He then joined the ranks of the dissidents and founded Havana Press with two other journalists in 1995.

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