The Spaniard found guilty of vehicular manslaughter when the car he was driving went out of control, killing well-known Cuban dissidentOswaldo Payá Sardiñas and a colleague, was sentenced Monday by a Cuban court to four years in prison, according to the pro-government websiteCubadebate.
Payá, 60, a Catholic layman who headed the Christian LiberationMovement and was one of Cuba’s most respected dissidents, and fellowactivist Harold Cepero died July 22 after a rental car driven by AngelCarromero Barrios went out of control along an unpaved stretch of roadand struck a tree about 14 miles outside Bayamo in eastern Cuba.
After considering the evidence and the seriousness of the accident,“which produced the lamentable death of two people as a result of theimprudent conduct of Carromero Barrios,” the Provincial Tribunal ofGranma found the Spaniard guilty and imposed the sentence, accordingto Cubadebate. The Cubadebate article also was published verbatim inGranma, the official website and newspaper of the Communist Party ofCuba.
Prosecutors had asked for a seven-year sentence.
Either Carromero or prosecutors may appeal the court’s decision.
The consul general from the Spanish Embassy attended the courtproceedings in Bayamo, which is about 460 miles east of Havana. Underthe terms of a 1998 agreement between Cuba and Spain, Carromero couldbe sent to Spain to serve out his sentence. Cuba’s penal code alsoallows the expulsion of a foreigner convicted of a crime.
During the trial Carromero — president of Nuevas Generaciones, theyouth wing of Spain’s ruling Popular Party — denied that he had beenspeeding. Prosecutors also based their conviction on Carromero’sfailure to heed signs warning of road work ahead, but Carromero’slawyers said the road was poorly marked.
Jens Aron Modig, president of the Swedish Christian Democrat YouthLeague, a wing of Sweden’s ruling alliance, was also riding in the carbut said he was asleep and didn’t know the circumstances of the crash.He received minor injuries and has since returned to Sweden.
The two Europeans were in Cuba to support the Cuban dissident movementand deliver about $5,000. They were both riding in the front of thecar. The two dissidents were sitting in the back, which bore the bruntof the impact, and were not wearing seat belts.
Payá’s family has always questioned the government’s version of eventsand has asked for an independent investigation. Family members claimthat the crash wasn’t an accident and suspect the car was forced offthe road.
Members of Payá’s movement also said they were suspicious becausethree weeks prior to the fatal crash Payá’s car had been wrecked andflipped after another vehicle rammed it.
In a recording on the Christian Liberation Movement’s website Monday,Rosa María Payá, the dissident’s daughter, said the judicial processwas “illegitimate” and “therefore we consider Angel to be totallyinnocent.’’
Payá was best known for his role in organizing the Varela Project, asignature-gathering campaign he began in 1998 in support of areferendum on laws to guarantee freedom of speech and other civilrights. By the time the campaign ended, there were more than 25,000names on the petition, but Cuban authorities ignored the request for areferendum.
Payá won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2002 and had beennominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times.
At the time of his death, Payá was eulogized by leaders around theworld and a Mass in his honor was held at Ermita de la Caridad, theShrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Miami.