Cuba frees 10 political prisoners, including Nobel peace prize nominee

Dr. Oscar Biscet
Dr. Oscar Biscet


Cuban officials released 10 more political prisoners, including prominent dissident  Oscar Elias Biscet, who was recently nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Biscet, a doctor who had been serving a 25-year sentence for being accused of activities that endangered state security, was released on March 11 with nine others. The dissidents were among 75 who were jailed during a repressive wave in the country nearly eight years ago.

The office of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, made the announcement of Biscet’s release by e-mail on March 10.

The release is the latest of several, following unprecedented dialogue between Cuban officials and the country's Catholic leaders. In 2003, 75 dissidents were arrested for what the local communist government viewed as treason. The prisoners have reportedly suffered harsh conditions while incarcerated, with some going on hunger strikes as a sign of protest.

Many of the political prisoners who have been released in the last several months are living in exile in Spain, which agreed to accept them, and three remain imprisoned in Cuba. However, Biscet belongs to a small group of dissidents who refused to be exiled to Spain in exchange for their release. He returned to his home in Havana last Friday.

The 49 year-old doctor is the president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. He became one of the most well known opponents of the communist government in Cuba and has earned the respect of both human rights groups and African American activists in the United States.

Biscet suffered numerous arrests beginning in 1998. He was convicted in 2000 and arrested again in 2002. For his opposition to Cuban authorities, then-president George W. Bush awarded him the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.  

Earlier this year, Biscet was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. In a Feb. 1 letter to the peace prize committee, Orban called the dissident a “man of courage and dignity” and an “ardent defender of human rights.”

Biscet is also the subject of a documentary from U.S. director Jordan Allott titled “Oscar’s Cuba.” The film was a selection of the 2011 John Paul II Film Festival.

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