Cuba's Raul Castro Commutes Some Death Sentences

Cuban President Raul Castro announced Monday he was commuting the death sentences of an unspecified number of inmates, including a Salvadoran and a Guatemalan linked to a 1997 bombing.

File photo shows Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana. Castro announced Monday he was commuting the death sentences of an unspecified number of inmates, including a Salvadoran and a Guatemalan linked to a 1997 bombing.(AFP/File/Adalberto Roque)

"This decision was not taken under pressure, but as a sovereign act in accordance with the humanitarian and ethical conduct" of the country, Castro told a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

The sentences will be commuted to jail terms of 30 years for some inmates and life in prison for others, he said, without giving any indication as to who or how many inmates would benefit from the measure.

Castro said that in addition to sparing a Guatemalan and a Salvadoran from the death sentence -- both were convicted in a 1997 Havana hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist, a commutation for a Cuban murderer was also being weighed.

Cuba's last executions were carried out on April 11, 2003, when three men faced the firing squad for hijacking a boat with 50 people on board and forcing its crew at gunpoint to take them to Miami, Florida.

The Human Rights and National Reconciliation Committee of Cuba estimates there are 40-50 people on Cuba's death row.

Raul Castro has been carrying out modest reforms since taking over as president in February from his ailing 81-year-old brother Fidel.

Source: AFP

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