9 Jul 2010

Cuban dissident ends hunger strike

8:13 pm on 9 July 2010

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas has ended his hunger strike after the government announced it was freeing 52 political prisoners.

Mr Farinas had been refusing food for more than 130 days and was reported to have been near death in recent days, the BBC says.

The death of another hunger striker, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, in February after 85 days withouth food put the pressure on Cuba.

After his death, Mr Farinas began his fast.

Agreement to release the prisoners came after talks between Cuban leader Raul Castro and church leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

Cardinal Ortega said five detainees would be freed later on Wednesday and the remaining 47 within the next few months.

It's the biggest mass liberation of Cuban prisoners in decades, the BBC reports. The Cuban government denies however that the inmates are political prisoners, describing them as common criminals or "mercenaries" working for the United States.