Havana, Cuba, Oct 17, 2012 / 11:59 am
Officials in Cuba announced on Monday that a court has sentenced a Spanish man to four years in prison for his role in a car crash that killed Oswaldo Paya and another prominent political dissident.
The criminal court in Granma said the traffic accident which took the lives of Paya and Harold Cepero on July 22 was the result of the "imprudent conduct" of Angel Carromero, who was driving the vehicle in which the men were traveling.
Diplomatic sources told Europa Press that since the sentence was for less than five years, Carromero could be allowed to serve the sentence in Spain under some form of house arrest. The verdict came 10 days after Carromero was tried in Bayamo, near the site of the accident in southeastern Cuba.
Prosecutors had asked for seven years – three and half for each victim. The car in which the two dissidents, Carromero and Swiss activist Jens Aron Modig were riding veered off the highway that connects Las Tunas with Bayamo in the province of Granma.
Modig was initially detained by Cuban officials but allowed to return to his country a few days later. He says he was asleep at the time of the accident and does not recall any details.
Carromero has been in prison since July in Havana.
The foreign ministers of Spain and Cuba, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo and Bruno Rodriguez agreed in New York on Sept. 27 to hold talks to evaluate the sentence once it was handed down.
Cuban authorities claim the accident was caused by excessive speeding, and in a video released by the government days after his arrest, Carromero admits that he lost control of the car after hitting a pothole, although he did not say how fast he was going.
In the video, he also asked the international community to avoid using the incident for political purposes and he denied that their car was struck from behind by another vehicle.
The Paya family has said that the accident may have been the result of a conspiracy to kill the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, alleging that one of the two survivors of the crash sent a text message stating that they were being followed and that their car had been hit from behind several times.
Paya's widow, Ofelia Acevedo, has absolved Carromero of any responsibility and has asked to learn "the truth" about what occurred. Neither the relatives of Paya nor those of Cepero have filed any suit against the Spaniard.