MEXICO CITY -- A Cuban court has sentenced a conservative Spanish politician to four years in prison for causing an automobile accident that killed two Cuban dissidents who were riding with him, according to news reports. Now the Spanish government is trying to find a way to bring him home.
The Spaniard, Angel Carromero, was found guilty of homicide by a court in the eastern province of Granma, where the accident occurred on July 22, according to a report posted Monday on the Cuban government website Cubadebate (link in Spanish).
The report said that Carromero’s “reckless conduct” behind the wheel had caused the “lamentable” deaths of the two anti-government activists, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.
Prosecutors, who argued that Carromero was speeding at the time, had originally sought a seven-year sentence.
Paya, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, was one of Cuba’s most prominent critics, and Carromero, a member of Spain’s Popular Party, had come to the island to lend him financial and strategic support. The Cuban government said that Carromero had entered the country on a tourist visa but had “illegally” engaged in political activity.
A Swedish conservative activist who was traveling with Carromero was injured in the crash and allowed to return home.
The case has been a diplomatically sensitive one from the beginning, and will probably continue to be, as Spanish officials now make the case that Carromero should be brought home too. The Spanish news agency EFE reported Monday that Spain’s Foreign Ministry was in negotiations with Cuban officials, in hopes that Carromero could be expelled from the island and set free in Spain (link in Spanish).
If the Cubans do not agree, the Spanish may attempt to pursue an agreement that will allow Carromero to serve out his sentence in a Spanish prison, the news agency reported.
Carromero did not testify, but his lawyer argued at trial that it was impossible to know how fast the car was traveling, according to the Associated Press. The Cuban government website noted that both the defense and the prosecutor have the option of appealing the sentence.
There was a topsy-turvy element to the case from the beginning: Although the Cuban government was allegedly seeking justice on behalf of one of its best-known critics, Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, argued that the case against the man charged with causing her husband’s death was a sham.
In an interview broadcast Monday on Radio Marti, the anti-communist Florida broadcaster funded by the U.S. government, Acevedo again called for an independent investigation of the crash, and lamented that Carromero had already spent nearly three months in a Cuban jail (link in Spanish).
“I hope that he is returned as soon as possible to his family,” she said.
-- Richard Fausset
Photo: A file picture shows Angel Carromero, center, arriving to court in Bayamo, Cuba, on Oct. 4. He was sentenced Sunday to four years in prison for a traffic accident in which Cuban opposition activists Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died. Credit: Ismael Francisco / European Pressphoto Agency