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Cuba to pardon nearly 3,000 prisoners

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Cuban President Raul Castro has unveiled plans to pardon some 3,000 prisoners for “humanitarian reasons,” a group amnesty of unprecedented size, and “gradually” reform onerous laws restricting foreign travel.

The pardons include 86 foreign nationals from 25 countries, and will take place “in the coming days,” Castro said in a closing address to the National Assembly Friday.

However US contractor Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba for espionage, will not be among those released, top foreign ministry official Josefina Vidal told AFP.

Castro said factors that played into the pardon decision included requests from the Catholic Church and various Protestant churches, and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

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