updated 8/15/2007 3:15:11 PM ET 2007-08-15T19:15:11

Cuban authorities have released a dissident who was jailed three years ago on vague political charges, as the list of the country’s political prisoners gradually grows shorter, a veteran rights activist said Wednesday.

Lazaro Gonzalez Adan, 37, who belonged to an independent labor movement, was freed Tuesday from the prison in the eastern province of Camaguey, where he lives, said Elizardo Sanchez of the National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Police visited Gonzalez in October 2004 after he painted a Cuban flag and two quotes about liberty by independence hero Jose Marti on his house. Sanchez said he could not recall the exact quotes, which apparently were chosen to criticize the government.

When Gonzalez refused police demands to erase the paintings, he was arrested on charges of disrespect, disobedience to authorities and resisting arrest. He later received a three-year prison sentence.

The number of Cuban political prisoners dropped by more than 20 percent in the first year since Raul Castro took power from his ailing elder brother Fidel in July 2006, according to Sanchez’s commission, which tracks prisoners of conscience.

According to the commission, 246 political prisoners were being held as of June 30, compared with 283 at the beginning of 2007 and 316 a year ago.

Government opponents say they continue to be harassed by authorities despite the drop in political prisoners.

Dissident Francisco Chaviano was freed Friday following 13 years behind bars.

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