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Spaniard tried in Cuba dissident death; no verdict

Posted on Friday, 10.05.12

Spaniard tried in Cuba death; no verdict


Associated Press

BAYAMO, Cuba — A Spanish political activist was tried Friday on charges

of negligently causing the car crash that killed a prominent Cuban

dissident. Several government opponents including noted Yoani

Sanchez were detained around this eastern city where the proceedings

were taking place.

Defendant Angel Carromero's trial wrapped up in the evening in Bayamo,

about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the capital and near the site

of the July 22 highway crash in which and another

dissident, Harold Cepero, died.

Authorities accused Carromero of speeding and charged him with the

equivalent of vehicular manslaughter, and prosecutors asked the court

for a seven-year sentence. In videotaped statements, the Spaniard has

said he lost control upon driving onto an unpaved section of road under

repair and the vehicle skidded into a tree.

Carromero's attorney argued Friday that it was impossible to determine

the exact velocity of the vehicle, showed photographs of allegedly poor

road signs warning of the upcoming roadwork that have since been

replaced and asked for him to be acquitted. Carromero did not testify.

A panel of judges will now consider the evidence and issue a ruling at

an unspecified future date.

Spanish consul Tomas Rodriguez, who observed the proceedings, called the

hearing "a clean, open and procedurally impeccable trial."

"From the Spanish point of view, there are reasons to be optimistic," he

added. "I am practically sure that there will be a reduction in the

sentence. I think it will be significant."

Bloggers in Bayamo reported that Sanchez, whose candid writing about

daily life in Cuba earned her both international acclaim and the enmity

of authorities, was detained by local officials shortly before reaching

the city.

Calls to Sanchez's cellphone went unanswered, but monitor

Elizardo Sanchez in Havana also reported the detentions Thursday night

of Sanchez; her husband, Reinaldo Escobar; and a third man in the

vehicle. He said at least a half-dozen other dissidents also were

detained in and around Bayamo.

Yoani and Elizardo Sanchez are not related.

Her detention was condemned by Amnesty International and media watchdog

groups, including the Inter American Press Association and the Committee

to Protect Journalists, as well as the U.S. government.

"We are deeply disturbed by the Cuban government's repeated use of

arbitrary detention to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and

impede independent journalism," State Department spokesman William

Ostick said.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais, for which Yoani Sanchez writes a column,

said she traveled to Bayamo to cover the trial.

But a prominent pro-government blogger who uses the handle Yohandry

Fontana accused Sanchez of planning to "attempt a provocation and media

show that would damage the proper development of the trial."

The government did not confirm the detentions and rarely does in such cases.

In the afternoon, the same pro-government blogger said authorities were

taking Sanchez and her husband back to Havana.

Earlier Friday, wearing khakis and a white dress shirt and with his head

shaved, Carromero arrived in a white van at the blue-painted courthouse

in Bayamo on Friday morning. He was escorted by Cuban security agents

and did not speak to reporters outside the building.

patrolled the surrounding blocks and nearby streets were closed

to traffic.

Relatives of Paya traveled to Bayamo but complained that they were

denied access to the courthouse. Rosa Maria Paya, his daughter,

reiterated the family's doubts about whether her father's death was

truly an .

"We are asking for an alternative investigation, and that is the only

thing that will give us the truth," she said.

Carromero, who is affiliated with a youth wing of 's ruling

conservative party. He and Aron Modig of Sweden, also a political

activist in his home country, came to Cuba to support the island's

dissidents, who are branded traitors and mercenaries by the Cuban


They were driving to eastern Cuba with Paya and Cepero in the back seat

when the crash happened. The Europeans, who were in the front and

wearing seatbelts, were not seriously injured.

Modig returned to Sweden a little over a week after the accident.

Paya, 60, was famous for leading the Project, a petition that

gathered thousands of signatures calling for a referendum on rights such

as of speech and assembly.

The awarded Paya its Sakharov human rights prize in 2002

in recognition of the project.

Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez in Havana and Bradley Klapper

in Washington contributed to this report.

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