Dec. 30 - One of the first Cuban dissidents freed from jail ahead of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI describes his shock at learning of his pardon. Paul Chapman reports.
PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Cuba's Independent Human Rights Commission says it's verified seven political prisoners have so far been released from jail under a plan to pardon nearly 3, 000. Augusto Guerra was one of the first to taste freedom. He says he couldn't believe it when he was told he was going home. SOUNDBITE: Augusto Guerra, freed political detainee, saying (Spanish): "At seven in the morning they said my name. A guard said 'Augusto Guerra Marquez'. "Yes, here" I said. 'Get your things' the guard replied. Because of Castro's last speech the prisoners started to say 'they're going to set you free'. It's impossible they would set me free. How are they going to set me free if I still have time to serve and I committed another crime in prison. They asked the guards 'is he free'?. Everyone was so happy, the inmates were moved." Cuba's decision followed an announcement that Pope Benedict would visit before Easter. Cuban President Raul Castro said the move was a humanitarian gesture. Guerra says pressure and support for human rights and international public opinion is behind it. Now he's urging supporters to keep up their campaign for the release of the remaining political prisoners and some of Cuba's estimated 80, 000 prison inmates. Paul Chapman, Reuters