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Rights group: More than 2,500 freed in Cuba amnesty

HAVANA - More than 2,500 Cuban prisoners have been released in recent days under a New Year's amnesty announced before a visit next spring by Pope Benedict XVI, a local human rights group said on Tuesday.
Cuban President Raul Castro said last Friday that the ruling Council of State had granted amnesty to more than 2,900 common prisoners.
Castro said the amnesty was a "humanitarian gesture" and had also "taken into account" an upcoming papal visit and requests by, among others, top Roman Catholic Church officials in Cuba and relatives of the prisoners.
"We estimate that more than 2,500 prisoners have been released in all the provinces, and the process continues," Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights, told Reuters.
The government and official media have not commented on the releases.
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