Dissident postpones new hunger strike

A prominent dissident has pulled back from a threat to go on hunger strike to pressure the government to free the last 13 political prisoners jailed in a 2003 crackdown. He said he was heeding a call for restraint from the men and their wives.

Guillermo Farinas said he was postponing the hunger strike, but stood ready to launch one if he is persuaded that authorities will not release the prisoners. He said he was writing a letter to Havana's Cardinal Jaime Ortega – who negotiated the releases with the Cuban President Raul Castro – to see what had gone wrong.

Mr Farinas won Europe's Sakharov human rights prize in October after staging a 134-day hunger strike in support of the prisoners. He had vowed to stop eating again if the remaining dissidents were not in their homes by yesterday.

Even as he withdrew the threat, Mr Farinas said he was pessimistic that the government would make good on its promise. "This government has demonstrated that it cannot keep its word," he said from his home in the province of Villa Clara.

In their 7 July meeting, Mr Castro and Cardinal Ortega agreed on a timetable for the liberation of 52 prisoners held since a sweep against peaceful activists, social commentators and opposition leaders. The Church announced that all would be out of jail within four months, a period that ended on Sunday.

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