HAVANA - Cuba is holding 60 political prisoners, half as many as a year ago, though the number could increase again because the communist government continues to "criminalize" dissent, a rights group said Friday.
Eleven more dissidents are out of jail on probation, bringing the total number targeted by the justice system "for political reasons or through politically motivated proceedings" to 71, said the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
"The risk that the number of these prisoners will increase remains latent as long as the regime continues to criminalize the exercise of all civil and political rights," said the group, which does not have legal status but is tolerated by President Raul Castro's government.
Cuba freed 53 people identified as political prisoners by the United States as part of the historic rapprochement the former Cold War foes announced last December.
Those identified as political prisoners by the commission include 10 members of the banned Patriotic Union of Cuba and 20 people convicted of "crimes against the state."
The list also includes graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, whom the commission said was sent to a maximum-security prison without trial for planning a performance deemed "disrespectful" toward Castro and his older brother Fidel, the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution.
Last year, the commission put the number of political prisoners at 114.