Cuba opens criminal proceedings over dissident's death

Picture released by Cuban TV from the Interior Ministry showing the crashed car of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya. AFP PHOTO/TV

HAVANA: Cuba has opened criminal proceedings against a Spanish political activist blamed for a car crash that killed leading dissident Oswaldo Paya and another man, the Communist Party daily Granma said Tuesday.

Granma said Angel Carromero, who was driving when their rental car went off the road and slammed into a tree, was formally named in homicide proceedings in connection with the July 22 accident in Bayamo, southeastern Cuba.

At the same time, the newspaper said a Swedish survivor of the crash, Jens Aron Modig, had been given permission to return to his country. Modig had been in custody since being released from hospital shortly after the crash.

Under Cuba's penal code, Carromero could face up to 10 years in prison for committing traffic violations that resulted in death.

Cuba's dissident community suspected another vehicle might have forced the car carrying Paya off the road, but Carromero and Modig both said Monday that the crash was accidental and that no other vehicles had been involved.

"I was driving in an area (of road that was) in bad condition" and lost control, Carromero said, noting that he had taken "all the precautions that a driver should take under such circumstances."

Modig backed up that story in a live interview before reporters.

Paya, 60, a leading opponent of the one-party rule of the Cuban Communist Party, was the 2002 recipient of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov prize, which is awarded for defending human rights and freedom of thought.

His widow Ofelia Acevedo last week rejected a government report that blamed the car crash on the driver. She also criticized officials for not allowing her to talk to Carromero and Modig, who had been kept in custody.

Paya's relatives had said they believed the rental car was forced off the road by another vehicle.





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