Sunday, December 16, 2012

Driver convicted in Payá accident to return to Madrid

Posted on Saturday, 12.15.12

Driver convicted in Payá accident to return to Madrid

Angel Carromero will serve the rest of his four-year sentence in Spain,
Cuban and Spanish officials said.
By Juan O. Tamayo

The widow of Havana dissident Oswaldo Payá said Friday she's glad that
Spanish politician Angel Carromero will leave his Cuban jail but has
little hope that he will clear up allegations surrounding her husband's
death in a car crash when he returns to Madrid.

"We have never blamed Carromero for the accident," said the widow,
Ofelia Acevedo, who maintains that government security agents may have
caused the crash and then forced the Spaniard to keep quiet on the
promise of letting him out of jail early.

Cuban and Spanish officials announced Friday that Carromero will be
moved to a Spanish jail to serve the remainder of his four-year sentence
for vehicular homicide in the deaths of Payá, founder of the Christian
Liberation Movement, and youth branch leader Harold Cepero.

The Spaniard was at the wheel of a rented car carrying Payá, Cepero and
Swedish politician Jens Aaron Modig when it crashed July 22 in eastern
Cuba, killing the two Cubans. Carromero and Modig, both 27, suffered
only minor injuries.

Cuban officials say the Spaniard lost control of the car and crashed
into a tree. Payá's family is demanding an independent investigation,
saying there's evidence he was forced off the road by another car,
presumably carrying State Security agents who always monitored Payá.

Carromero and Modig, who returned to Stockholm a week after the
accident, have not spoken about the second car to win a quick release
for the Spaniard, according to Payá relatives and supporters on the
island and abroad.

"We are happy that he can leave Cuba, that he can end his kidnapping
here," Acevedo told El Nuevo Herald in a phone interview from Havana.
"But we're not renouncing our demand for an independent investigation.
We do not accept the government version, because we're convinced that it
did not happen that way."

Once out of Cuba, the Spaniard may tell the full truth about the
accident, she added, "although I also would not be surprised at all that
he would maintain total silence on the issue … There are other interests
and other powers that evidently don't want the truth to come out."

Payá's daughter, Rosa María, said in a statement emailed to journalists
that once freed, Carromero should explain reports that Modig used his
cell phone to send text messages to friends in Sweden reporting their
car had been rammed from behind by another vehicle.

She also noted that the Cuban government has yet to give her family a
copy of her father's autopsy, and has not given Cepero's relatives the
SIM cards from the two cellular phones he was carrying, which might show
whether he made any calls immediately before or after the car crash.

"We are glad for Angel and his family, and we hope that from Madrid he
will help to clarify the truth, the truth for which we work and for
which we will never stop seeking," Rosa María concluded.

Payá's representative in Spain, Regis Iglesias, sent a Tweeter message
Friday saying, "Oswaldo and Harold murdered. Angel and Aaron back home …
Spain in dishonorable silence." Modig did not return phone calls and
emails seeking comment for this story.

Carromero and Modig are activists in the youth wings of conservative
parties — the Popular Party in Spain and Sweden's Christian Democratic
Party. The Cuban government alleges that they went to the island on
tourist visas to deliver money to dissidents.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told
journalists in Madrid on Friday that Cuban and Spanish officials had met
Wednesday in Havana and agreed to the return home of Carromero. A Cuban
foreign ministry statement confirmed the agreement.

No date was given for his return, although the EFE news agency quoted
Spanish diplomats in Havana as saying they hoped Carromero would be home
before the end of the year. Another Spaniard serving an 18-year drug
sentence in Cuba also will be transferred to a Spanish jail.

The two countries signed an agreement in 1998 that allow their citizens
to serve prison terms in their own countries, but it is not known how
many times it has been used.

Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo of Spain met twice with his
Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez in November to discuss the Carromero
case but has maintained diplomatic silence on the case before and after
the meeting.

A post Friday on the Christian Liberation Movement's Facebook page
reflected the belief of many Payá supporters that the Spanish government
agreed to cover up the Cuban involvement in the fatal crash in order to
get Carromero out of prison quickly.

"From the start, and despite having information about the crime, the
Spanish government used the strategy of 'self-blame,'" the post noted.
"Now it must accept that an innocent person … serve a sentence in Spain
for a crime he did not commit."

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