Havana, Cuba (CNA).- The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá, slammed the Cuban government this week for not respecting the rights of the recently-freed political prisoners and sending them into exile. He vowed the fight to free Cuba would continue forward.

The first group of 11 prisoners were released this week and immediately flown to Spain. The remaining 41 political prisoners will be freed in the next three months.

"The dignity, rights and even feelings of those who have been freed are not being respected," Payá said. "They and those who remain imprisoned carry the torch of heroes. We thank them and we say to them: we shall continue together to fight for the freedom and rights of Cubans," he said in a message.

"Some wish to portray this action by the government as change in Cuba (I wish it were change)," Payá continued. He noted that if the Spanish government and Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs "are saying this is the beginning of the changes, Cubans aren’t aware of it, and it seems the Cuban government isn’t either."

For this reason, he said, the Communist government ought to be the one "telling the people that this is beginning of the changes."

Payá criticized the decision to force the political prisoners into exile: "We must remember that these men were not blowing things up or engaging in violence," Payá said, unlike Fidel and Raul Castro, who were released from prison in 1953 and were allowed to stay in the country. "So it seems the current government is more afraid the ideas of these brothers of ours than the dictator Batista was of their rifles and bombs," Payá added.

The exiled Cubans leave "with their hearts broken and full of uncertainty, but with high morale and with our sentiments of gratitude for what they suffered cruelly in prison for the rights and liberty of Cubans,” remarked Payá. “The world should know that these men carry with them the courage and dignity of an entire people."

for the freedom of all cuban political prisoners
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